On April 26, taste buds were dancing at Humber's Iron Chef Culinary Competition. Twenty-four culinary students created and prepared three-course meals for a chance to win $350 each and the title of top Humber Iron Chefs.
"The Iron Chef Culinary Competition is all about students showcasing the skills they learned at Humber," said Shonah Chalmers, culinary professor at Humber College. "Each team did their homework and thought about colour, flavour and texture – I was blown away by their dishes.”
The competition kicked off with 11 multidisciplinary teams from Humber's culinary programs, including Baking and Pastry Arts Management, Food and Nutrition Management, Culinary Management and Culinary Skills. The teams were asked to submit a comfort-food-themed menu that incorporated one plant-based dish, use of a whole chicken, and Kraft Heinz products like Good Planet Vegan Cheese and at least one sauce from their Richardson Ultimate Sauces line-up.
After great deliberation, six teams of four students were selected to move forward to the cooking stage of the competition.
On the day of the cook-off, Humber alumni, proud parents and friends gathered in the culinary labs to watch the up-and-coming chefs. The teams had a limited amount of time to prepare and present their menus to a panel of tasting judges, which included Thomas Heitz, corporate chef of Kraft Heinz Canada, Dave Godfrey, director of culinary for Firkin Group of Pubs, and Alex Fineberg, director of culinary operations for Shoeless Joe's Limited.
Students not only showcased their culinary expertise but also their ability to remain calm and focused under pressure – necessary skills in the kitchen.
"In this competition, students need to work with a sense of urgency and demonstrate excellent time management skills," said Thomas Heitz, corporate chef at Kraft Heinz Canada. "In the industry, they'll be in similar, high-stress situations where they'll need to think on their own feet and make quick decisions."
"The Iron Chef Culinary Competition gives students the necessary skill set to succeed in the industry," said Heitz.
Every team prepared their work plans and menus in advance, but there was still one surprise mystery ingredient – Kool-Aid Powdered Drink Mix had to be incorporated into one of their dishes, as a final challenge.
"We were excited when they announced that Kool-Aid was the mystery ingredient," said Zainab Waheed, culinary student and Humber Iron Chef winner. "We immediately thought of creative ways to use it in our dishes. We ended up incorporating Kool-Aid in our appetizer and dessert."
This year's winners – Team Humberlicious – were Culinary Management fourth semester students Yannick Charette, Mariel Quiambao, Quang Bach Pham and Zainab Waheed. The students incorporated their knowledge of Asian cuisine to prepare three dishes: vegan Pad Thai, chicken three ways – Siu Mai, Char Siu and fried wings – and ube cannoli with purple ice cream.
"We used several Kraft Heinz products in all of our dishes," said Charette. "We won because we worked well together and put in a lot of effort – we received great feedback from the judges."
The tasting judges were impressed with the winning team’s creativity and execution of their internationally inspired dishes, which stood out from the competition.
"What I love about this competition is that there are so many students with diverse backgrounds,” said Heitz. “We see their culture’s influence on the plate, and they’re working with our products in creative ways I’ve never seen before.”
Humber faculty and staff worked side-by-side with Kraft Heinz to bring this competition to life.
"Kraft Heinz is a dedicated and supportive partner," said Chalmers. "They are elevating the students’ skills for the industry.”
"In return, they're seeing Kraft Heinz staples through the eyes of young chefs who are pushing boundaries and shedding a new light on well-known products.”
Students gained invaluable hands-on experience throughout the competition, from creating their own recipes to receiving crucial feedback about their work. Many felt they were prepared for the intense competition because of their prior experience at Humber.
"I learned a lot of necessary skills at Humber," said Charrette, "My instructors are experienced chefs, and their guidance helped me build my confidence for future jobs.”
Find more information about the 2022 Iron Chef Culinary Competition on our website.