Four smiling people wearing chef’s outfits stand in front of a sign that reads Kraft Heinz.

Seven teams of Humber College students showed off their skills in the kitchen as they worked together to create a three-course meal to wow the judges as part of the ninth annual Kraft Heinz Humber Iron Chef competition.

The competition tasks students from Humber’s baking and culinary programs including Baking and Pastry Arts Management, Food and Nutrition Management, Culinary Management and Culinary Skills, with creating a menu using the theme of “accessible, ethnic, inspired.”

Shonah Chalmers is a culinary professor at Humber who helped organize this year’s event and its previous iterations. Chalmers said the competition, which is sponsored by Kraft Heinz, brings out the competitive juices in the participating students as they vie to be crowned the champion.

“What I love about this competition is that it lets the students showcase their creativity and show off their flavours and flair,” said Chalmers. “It’s always fun to see what they come up with.”

The students were required to use chicken in their menu and, as part of the competition, had to incorporate either Kraft Heinz peanut butter or Philadelphia cream cheese in it.  

Adding a twist to the competition was the introduction of a secret ingredient the students were unaware of until the morning of the competition. In the past, the secret ingredient was items such as pretzels and candy canes and this year they decided to go with Cheez Whiz.

“I love the way the students are incorporating our products such as the iconic Cheez Whiz into their dishes,” said Thomas Heitz, corporate chef with Kraft Heinz. “I’ve tasted some of the food and it’s fantastic.”

Finishing in first and winning $350 for each team member was Itsumo, which was comprised of Josh Talamayan, Cezar Yambao, Siegfried Tana and Aeron Agcaoili.

As an appetizer, they plated chicken and mushroom croquettes. For the main course, they plated baked salmon with teriyaki and pecan, and finished the meal off with tropical pavlova as the dessert. Their creations wowed the judges and had Heitz calling them “delicious” before adding the winning team did a “phenomenal” job.

Agcaoili said the teammates are all friends and they came into the competition prepared to have fun with no expectations to win. He said they had created their menu as part of their Chef’s Table course and found most people liked it. So, they kept it the same for Iron Chef.

Agcaoili added, as a final year student, he wanted to take part in the competition to gain additional experience before graduating. He said their team learned how to work well as a group while under pressure as they created the winning menu and dishes.

Finishing second and winning $200 per student was Asian No. 1 and coming in third and winning $100 per student was Fuego.

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 Humber graduates Chef Dacyion Reid and Chef Rob Yu. The former is a personal meal chef and caterer while the latter is executive chef at Yokai Izakaya. Chef Jeff Dell, a corporate executive chef with Foodtastic, also served as a tasting judge.

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