Ezra Stiles College, represented by chefs Michael Park ’17, Henok Addis ’17 and Adam Davis ’17, won the ninth annual Final Cut student culinary competition on Tuesday night in front of approximately 1,000 guests in Commons.
The winning chefs from Stiles — led by Park, who has a strong culinary background and helps lead Y Pop-Up, the nonprofit student-run studio kitchen — took home $1,000 in prize money for their first course: salmon tartare with sorrel troisgros followed by chicken scarparo. The Timothy Dwight team took home the second place prize of $500 and Grace Hopper College, which brought newly titled booth signs, grabbed the third place prize of $250.
“It was a fantastic experience, definitely a bit of a whirlwind for us. My housemates were kind enough to join the team very last minute, and it was 48 hours of frantic cooking,” Park said. “It’s always really fun to represent the college but also to celebrate food at Yale. The four years that I’ve been here, getting to know some people at Yale Dining and people that work at Stiles dining hall, it dawns on you how much goes on behind the scenes.”
The rules of this year’s competition stipulated that the contestants from each residential college had to incorporate a “market basket” containing chicken- or pork-based Italian-style sausage, salmon, chicken and three different vegetables into their submitted appetizer and entree. The Stiles team’s recipe included salmon skin chip, cured salmon, sorrel and white wine reduction, pickled cauliflower and lemon zest in its appetizer and sous vide chicken breast, red pepper agrodolce, white bean and sausage ragout, spinach and parsley salad and jus in the main course.
Residential college dining hall managers supported the competitors during the event by bringing them anything they needed, ranging from “ice or water to blenders,” according to Kory Evasick, a dining hall manager in Timothy Dwight College.
The judging panel included Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway, professional chefs Daniel Giusti and Christian Petroni, Associate Vice President of Yale Hospitality Rafi Taherian and Yale Director of Culinary Excellence Ron DeSantis.
“It is a great honor to be here tonight,” Holloway said before announcing the winners. “I’ve been here 18 years, but I’m still impressed by the talent of the students, whether it’s on stage or in this case in the kitchen. There a few dishes I wish I could take home with me right now, but I’m not saying which ones. I love them all equally.”
In addition to the student competitors from all 12 colleges — many of whom received training from college dining hall staff — the Final Cut event also attracted hundreds of students, faculty and staff.
Attendees were able to sample food from various culinary sponsors such as Dannon Yogurt, Bush’s Beans and Barilla. Christina Pivirotto, a Dannon representative, explained that the Final Cut is a great opportunity for brands like Dannon to garner more recognition among Yalies. Joe Genther of Bush’s Beans shared similar sentiments regarding his company, which has supported Final Cut at Yale for five years.
Hungry students eager to take advantage of the culinary sponsor booths lining Commons dining hall went home with full bellies of salmon poke, steak gravy, sourdough rolls, eclairs, sushi, spiced potato chips, fruit juices and pasta salads. Many carried extra platters of food out the door for later consumption.
“Lots of gluttony,” said Darwin Edwards ’19. “It’s fun though; this is some Yale thing, you need dollars for this.”
Of the 16 students interviewed by the News at Final Cut, almost all shared Edwards’ positive outlook on the event. Christopher Kim ’19 commended Yale for arranging a comfortable environment to support the colleges and showcase the talents of students while offering good food and company for all the onlookers. Leonardo Sanchez-Noya ’18 remarked that no Yale student should ever decline free food before he plunged into the crowded line for Michelle’s Bakery.
Attendee Kushal Dev ’20, meanwhile, said he felt like he was on set of the famous TV cooking show Top Chef.
Others commented on the valuable opportunity Final Cut presented for off-campus students to unite with their on-campus counterparts. Klevi Golloshi ’18, who lives off campus, said he appreciated the extra food but also enjoyed how the event put him in contact with on-campus students he does not see as often. Daniel Shapiro ’18, who also lives off campus, said he came to Final Cut to cheer for his housemate.
Numerous students noted that the Michelle’s Famile Bakery booth was by far the most popular destination at Final Cut.
“Every year we come here and the lines are just out the door,” said Patti Dunlap, one of the representatives from the West Haven-based Michelle’s Famile Bakery who came to Yale.
She added that the baking company had brought over 3,500 baked items to Final Cut, the small remainder of which were distributed to any interested parties at the event’s closing.
Silliman and Trumbull served up tremendous portions of residential college spirit during the competition. The Sillimander mascot danced its way through the event at numerous points in the evening, and Trumbull students formed a valiant “bull charge” on their way to delivering their college’s culinary submission. Holloway awarded the inaugural prize for “best team spirit and cheer” to Trumbull.
Handsome Dan XVIII also made an entrance at the event.