Students Showcase Culinary Talents at the R&DE Cardinal Cook-Off Competition



Stanford students showcased their culinary talents at Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) Stanford Dining’s Cardinal Cook-Off competition at the Arrillaga Family Dining Commons on Jan. 23. The Iron Chef-style event, now in its 17th year, highlights Stanford students as they demonstrate their knowledge of food and healthy, sustainable eating habits.

“The variety of flavors and cultures represented in these recipes is a testament to our students’ creativity,” said Eric Montell, executive director for R&DE Stanford Dining. “It’s inspiring to see Stanford students celebrating a passion for food and sustainability, and the culinary team enjoys it as much as the students.”

During the week leading to the competition, contestants — four teams of two students chosen from a pool of two dozen applicants — refine their original recipes with guidance and mentorship from an R&DE professional chef.  Students this year were challenged to create dishes featuring a whole Brussels sprouts stalk from a local fourth-generation farm and sustainably-caught head-on gulf shrimp.

On competition night, each team had 45 minutes to prepare their recipes before a room full of excited spectators and a panel of judges who tasted and scored each dish. This year’s judges included Erica Scott, ASSU president; Isaiah Drummond, ASSU vice president; Shirley Everett, R&DE senior associate vice provost; Susie Brubaker-Cole, vice provost for student affairs; Chris Bright, director of Stanford Redwood City Campus; James Jacobs, Vaden Health Services executive director; Jan Barker-Alexander, assistant vice provost for student affairs; and Fred Alexander, Ujamaa resident fellow.  

Team One consisted of Jonathon Kuck, ‘22, computer science, and Rachel Luo ‘21, electrical engineering. Working under the mentorship of Wilbur Dining executive chef Mychel Brewster, the students prepared “soy-lime fusion shrimp.” 

Team Two consisted of Maxwell Meyer, ’22, geophysics, and Sahej Claire, ’22, data science. Working with Stern Dining executive chef Anthony Gutierrez, the students prepared “East and West Indies shrimp with Brussels sprouts yogurt slaw,” a meld of their favorite flavors and cuisines, Indian and Caribbean. A side dish of fluffy jasmine rice studded with caramelized pineapple chunks added a sweet contrast to the curried shrimp’s habanero pepper heat.

On Team Three, Elena Berman, ’21, computer science, and HannahZoe Chua-Reyes, ’21, earth systems, worked with Lakeside Dining’s plant forward and vegan sous chef Jay-Ar Pugao to create a shrimp stew and crispy parmesan tacos filled with truffled Brussels sprouts. “We feel lucky to have had this mentorship with Chef Jay-Ar,” said Chua-Reyes. “He helped us home in on our flavor profile and tweak our recipe to perfection.”

The appreciation was mutual. Mentoring Team Three was a worthy endeavor, said Chef Pugao. “This is the true Stanford experience: to meet young brilliant minds who are doing something they love. I’m just happy to be part of it,” he said.

Undeclared undergrads Elena Miller, ’23, and Ella Booker, ’23, worked with Gerhard Casper sous chef Alice Pyo on Team Four, taking inspiration from Booker’s home, Raleigh, North Carolina, for their dish, “Cajun shrimp and grits cakes with Brussels slaw.” As she diced green and red bell peppers, Booker credited Chef Pyo with helping to make their recipe more “professional. She encouraged us to incorporate fresh ingredients into the dish for added flavor and color.”

Once each dish was complete, the contestants plated their creations and waited as a panel of judges critiqued their work. Team Two was awarded first place and both contestants were awarded a set of chef’s knives and $100 in Cardinal Dollars. Congratulations to them and thanks to all our student chefs.

Congratulations to the winning team, Sahej Claire and Maxwell Meyer.

Congratulations to the winning team, Sahej Claire and Maxwell Meyer.

East and West Indies curry shrimp

The winning dish, East and West Indies curry shrimp with pineapple rice, combined Team Two's favorite cuisines, Indian and Caribbean.