Before the MSU and University of Michigan (U-M) football teams faced off in Spartan Stadium, chefs representing each school went head-to-head in a timed cooking challenge.
Styled after the television show “Iron Chef,” the Culinary Throwdown is an annual event held at the university hosting the football game. The Throwdown features three rounds of competition, where student chefs, executive chefs and the corporate chef from each school are given 20 minutes to cook and plate a main course dish to present to judges.
Jammie Simmons and Megan Dowell (pictured above) represented MSU in the first round, incorporating Hormel fire-braised pork into their creation. Use of eggs was optional for the student round, however, they opted to include the ingredient in an Italian fried polenta. Simmons and Dowell took on U-M students Shelby Stadler and Arynne Wegryn-Jones, who applied a curry sauce to their protein.
In the second round, MSU Executive Chefs Dien Ly and Eric Batten (pictured right) went up against U-M Executive Chefs Russell Palmer and Jeremy Moser. The Spartan pair made a colorful bibimbap, a traditional Korean dish, while Palmer and Moser opted for a traditional wonton with a ginger garlic paste, Tabasco reserve and lime juice vinaigrette.
The final round of competition featured pork loin and eggs. MSU Corporate Executive Chef Kurt Kwiatkowski soft poached an egg, wrapped it in Swiss chard and cooked it inside the panko-crusted pork. The meat was served with roasted potatoes, sautéed Swiss chard and smoked tomato sauce.
On the other end of the tent, U-M Campus Executive Chef Frank Turchan utilized a simple pork loin brined for 24 hours in local apple cider and toasted seeds. For the side, he blended egg with carrots, sauerkraut and shallots.
Dishes were judged by Ten-Niah Kinney, MSU Residence Halls Association president; Laura Fellows, executive chef at Sparrow Hospital; Corbett Day, Americrown chef and culinary arts instructor; and Kevin Enright, department chairperson of the Culinary Studies Institute of Oakland Community College and culinary educator of more than 30 years. Teams were scored on completion time, presentation, creativity and overall flavor.
While they watched the rivalry unfold, guests enjoyed tailgate food, including pulled pork sliders, smokestack coleslaw, mac and cheese, breakfast burritos with optional Tabasco sauce, a street food sandwich featuring the Incredible Egg by the American Egg Board and MSU Bakers game-day cookies.
After the third and final round concluded and scores were tallied, emcees Becky Brewer and Shawn Rawson (pictured right with the MSU team) announced MSU as the winners of this year’s Throwdown. The record after four years stands at 3-1, with the Spartans bringing home three wins.
Thank you to event sponsors the National Pork Board, American Egg Board, Hormel and Tabasco for supporting the Culinary Throwdown. In addition, thank you to judges and emcees for helping make the event a success. Next year’s Throwdown will be held in Ann Arbor. We hope to see you there cheering on our Spartan chefs!