Yale Final Cut 2012 – “Top Chef”
Some years ago, Yale College began hosting a cooking competition known as Final Cut. The premise is simple, a team from each residential college—there are twelve—compete to create an appetizer and entree in the span of one hour. The primary ingredients are known beforehand, and additional ingredients or equipment can be requested, with the limitation of having two butane burners. The winning takes home a cash prize and a handful of culinary goodies.
The Final Cut competition had been one of the events I had been looking forward to coming into college, so when the time came, I teamed up with two friends Jonathan and Angela. We managed to win the preliminary competition, allowing us to compete in the final competition against eleven other teams.
In the preliminary round, we managed to win by cooking a vichyssoise containing chicken, candied carrot, blueberry-infused celery, and croutons. Vichyssoise is a French potato and leek soup normally served cold, but due to limited time and resources, we served our vichyssoise hot. When I tasted the dish, an assortment of contrasting flavors and textures greeted me. Croutons added a much needed bite to the dish. Chicken played a savory overtone, and the candied carrots balanced the primarily salty dish with strong, caramel flavors
At the final competition, we conjured up an appetizer soup based on spicy Korean flavors with enoki mushrooms, stuffed mushrooms, and daikon radish. Our main dish consisted of a Korean BBQ foam-filled mozzarella balloon, baked cod, candied beet, candied carrots, and quinoa. In retrospect, I think the execution of our entree during the final competition lacked finesse. The mozzarella balloons were made ahead of time, so not only was the filling cold, the balloons themselves cooled. The quinoa sat unattended for a while, losing heat, and were a tad overcooked. We didn’t have time to blowtorch them either for an added layer of complexity. The beets, which we struggled with during practice sessions, never reached the softness I desired, but on the other hand, I think we did a great job with presentation, especially considering our limited practice runs. The cod turned out silky soft, and the flavor of the soup was spot on.
The whole competition was a great experience overall, and I’m hoping to go at it again next year. If you’re interested in making something similar to what we made at the competition, here are some recipes.
Photos by Brittany Stager of GroupTalk.