Two smiling people wearing chef outfits stand near a pot as one of them stirs it.

Eight teams of Humber students showed off their culinary skills as they created three-course meals to impress the judges as part of the annual Kraft Heinz Iron Chef competition.

The competition, organized by culinary faculty Chef Simon Stenekes, has students from Humber’s Baking and Pastry Arts Management, Culinary Management and Culinary Skills programs create a menu using the theme of “globally inspired.”  

The teams showcased the culinary skills they’ve learned at Humber as they created dishes that had to incorporate Kraft Heinz products including peanut butter, Philadelphia cream cheese and vegan mayonnaise. Throwing a wrinkle into the competition was the addition of a secret ingredient that had to be used and this year’s was marshmallows.

Shonah Chalmers, a culinary professor at Humber who helped organize this year’s event, said when the students are working in a professional kitchen they will have to be able to adapt to the unexpected. It’s why they wanted to challenge them with the secret ingredient while also hoping it inspires them to get creative as they find a way to work it into their menus.

The Kraft Heinz Iron Chef competition is a valuable experience for the students, said Chalmers. She noted they use critical thinking as they craft their menus and leadership skills as they work with their team. The competition is also an opportunity for the young chefs to create their own dishes and share them with the judges, who are all industry professionals.

“The feedback they receive from the judges is the biggest part of the competition for the students,” said Chalmers. “If they can take to heart what the judges have to say, it will help them grow as a chef and that’s how you improve.”

Finishing in first and winning $350 for each team member was Sarap Delicioso, which was comprised of Jessica Aquino, Iris Calderon, Jhoushelle Gamazon and Christian Paolo Latad.

For an appetizer, they created a parsnip panna cotta and arugula salad with sherry vinaigrette, parsnip chips, spiced mayonnaise and beetroot puree. For the main, they presented a roasted Cornish hen supreme with au jus, rice noodles in Peruvian peanut sauce, papaya slaw and crushed nuts. For dessert, it was pineapple cream cheese turon with dark rum sauce, maple spiced quince gelato, crushed waffle and caramelized sugar strings.

Aquino, a first year Culinary Management student, said the team put in a lot of time and effort to develop and perfect their menu, adding teamwork and communication played a big role in their win. Winning the competition left Aquino and the team feeling even more confident as they prepare for the summer break before starting their second year of the program this fall.

“We couldn’t believe it when we heard our names called,” said Gamazon.  

Making their win even more remarkable was the fact that Calderon was unable to attend due to an emergency, so they had to go with only three team members when all the other teams had four. However, they remained confident they could still do a great job even being down a person.

Coming in second and receiving $200 per student was Team 6 and finishing in third and receiving $100 per student was Team Sharon.  

There were two sets of judges at the competition – kitchen and tasting.   

The kitchen judges were Humber faculty Chef George Taluri and Chef Francisco Rivera as well as Humber graduate and executive chef and owner of Michelin star-rated restaurant Frilu, John-Vincent Troiano. They oversaw the students as they cooked and graded them on their organizational and cleanliness skills.

The tasting judges were Chef Leslie Cairns, senior culinary innovation chef with Aramark, Chef Dustin Gallagher, executive chef Noble House & 416 Snack Bar, and Chef Carmelo Vadacchino, corporate chef with Food Supplies.

Adding some fun to the festivities was that the audience had a chance to sample the dishes being created. Each team would create four plates – three were for the judges and the fourth was given away to the audience via raffle.

Find out more by visiting Humber’s baking and culinary programs website.