"Chopped" Culinary Showdown at Mercyhurst - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

"Chopped" Culinary Showdown at Mercyhurst

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A culinary competition put Mercyhurst University hospitality students' cooking and creativity to the test, in the style of the hit Food Network show "Chopped" - all for the March of Dimes. 

"We really like to encourage our students to not only be hands-on in the classroom but hands-on in the community as well," said Allyson Minor, an instructor at the Hospitality and Management program and the main event organizer. 

 Mercyhurst Hospitality and Management school hosted the competition, which brought a battle between Erie local Steve Balcovic, a senior, and junior Ethan Sykes, from Ontario. Both are hospitality students.

Akin to the "Chopped" show, contestants were required to use mystery ingredients in each dish under severe time constraints. Then a panel of judges critiqued the cooking.

The hodgepodge of mystery ingredients made for a tough competition, with ingredients including jelly beans, sirloin steak, lemon cookies, Cajun sausage, and mandarin oranges.

They both had to use eight mystery ingredients, four for the appetizer round, and four for the dinner.

"It was a little bit trickier than I thought. A jelly bean was not fun," Balcovic said.  

"Yeah the jelly bean was probably the most challenging aspect of it, and 15 minutes goes by quickly," Sykes said.

While the judges seemed apprehensive at first, all three were pleasantly surprised. 

"I didn't know what to expect but it came out wonderful.What a challenge," said Tom Kirchlich of Maplevale Foods, the company that donated the ingredients for the competition.

"I've never had a chicken and orange soup before, or a cous-cous made with jelly beans and a lemon biscuit, and it was actually pretty good," said Andrew Kochirka, a food blogger for the Erie Times. "It's impressive to see, especially coming out of 21-year-old students."

The event was also a chance to showcase the students' skills. 

"Our students, we don't normally get to see them under pressure and we don't get a chance to see their talents," said Daryl Georger, a faculty member of the Hospitality Management program. "This really not only is it for a great cause, but it's really impressive and gives me a warm feeling as a faculty member," he said. 

The judges critiqued the dishes based on taste, creativity, and presentation.
Erie native Steve Balkovic took the win with his dishes of a cous-cous appetizer and sirloin steak tip stir-fry for the entree. 

The event raised about five hundred dollars for the March of Dimes. About 20 students in the department are also participating in the March of Dimes annual walk next Sunday, on April 27th. 



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