Throughout my first year in Duke’s MBA program, I was constantly surprised by the many amazing talents of my classmates. The Culinary Club’s ‘Iron Chef’ competition at Fuqua certainly showcased those of the kitchen variety.

Each year, the Culinary Club hosts the event at an April Fuqua Friday. The spirit of the competition is very much like the TV show, Iron Chef, but with a few twists. First, the “secret” ingredient was revealed a week in advance so that we could plan our menus and purchase the groceries ahead of time. Second, we had to provide our own cooking equipment (we did have access to a generator). Otherwise, we were allowed to get creative!

The week before the competition

Iron Chef competition at Fuqua
The dessert: rosemary poached pears with ricotta, honey, and toasted walnuts

Sign-ups opened the week before the competition, and of course the most important part of that process was coming up with the team name. Our team of five, which included me and four other first-year students (plus Victoria and Jordan’s four-year old son!), bandied several names back and forth, and ended up on Blue Devil Eggs. A couple other options that didn’t make the cut included the Fuqua Frittatas and Fish ‘n’ Fuquans.

The week of the competition

To help us prepare, the secret ingredient was revealed a few days before our menus were due. Last year’s ingredient was lemongrass, and this year—drum roll, please—it was rosemary. Once we knew the ingredient, we all sat down in the Fox Center to figure out what we wanted to make for our appetizer, entrée and dessert. Since I bake quite a bit, I volunteered to tackle dessert.

After doing a few quick searches on Pinterest for inspiration, we decided on the following: a rosemary-flavored tilapia ceviche and a rosemary simple syrup (non-alcoholic) “cocktail” for our appetizer; rosemary chicken stuffed with apples, paired with mushroom rice and shaved vegetable root and arugula salad for our entrée; and finally rosemary poached pears with ricotta, honey, and toasted walnuts for our dessert.

The day of the competition

Iron Chef competition at Fuqua
Our cooking station

For those of us who had to marinate an ingredient, we were allowed to do so the day before. Emily started the tilapia ceviche the night before, Jordan marinated the chicken, and I poached the pears in rosemary simple syrup. After class ended for the day on Friday, I rushed home to collect the kitchenware we were going to use during the cooking portion of the competition and the poached pears I had started.

Each team had two tables, and fortunately Jordan and Victoria had thought to bring another table, so that we had one for all the ingredients, one for prep, and one for the actual cooking.

Iron Chef competition at Fuqua
Team Blue Devil Eggs (click and notice the thumb bandages on Emily and SooMin, at right)

Once the timer started, things were hectic! Everyone pitched in to help plate the appetizer and started cutting up vegetables, apples, and mushrooms for the entrée. We did have a couple hiccups due to a rather deadly mandoline, as both SooMin and Emily had to bow out after each one sliced a thumb open.

After the appetizers were plated and sent off to the judging table, we turned our attention fully to the entrée and helped Jordan put together the side dishes while he was focused on grilling the chicken. After that, we moved on to the dessert and sliced the rosemary-poached pears and toasted the walnuts.

Although we didn’t end up winning, it was a ton of fun putting our energy into producing delicious food and pretending for a few hours that we were a team of culinary experts. I can’t wait for next year to come back as the Deadly Mandolines!