For “Chopped: Roadrunner Kitchen Edition,” art faculty members Shannon Eakins and Marc Dombrosky Feb. 18 designed a tasting menu utilizing ingredients available to students through Southwestern Michigan College’s on-campus food pantry. The goal of the event was to educate students how to make meals through the creative use of food items they might not have considered.
Students sampled various dishes and voted for their favorites. Eakins eked out a four-vote win in the event modeled after the long-running Food Network show, graciously claiming her foil swan without gloating. “We all win when we cook,” she said. “I’m going to glue it to the front of my car.” Dombrosky’s consolation prize was a chef’s toque.
After cooking in the adjacent Mathews Conference Center West kitchen, they wheeled eight entrees into Fred L. Mathews Library, where the repast was spread out on tables in front of the Roadrunner Kitchen, which Sigma Psi of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), SMC’s chapter of the international honor society, has maintained as a service project since Feb. 26, 2018.
“We wanted every dish to have two to five ingredients” available in the pantry, said Dombrosky, chairman of SMC’s Visual and Performing Arts Department. “We talked to Anushka (Ganu), one of the honors students who coordinates the whole thing, to find out what people are eating or not eating, and how we can use some of the less popular items. They have a lot of different kinds of beans.”
Dombrosky combined various beans with hot dogs and two diced beef sticks for a dash of smoky flavor and spread whole wheat toast with garlic butter.
One casserole combined jasmine rice, canned chicken, frozen vegetables and soy sauce and shingled it with mandarin oranges. A dessert featured Chocolate Puffs bars, similar to Rice Krispies Treats, but made with a different cereal.
A dish made from box macaroni and cheese, canned tuna, green beans and topped with a “cracker crumble” prompted one student’s eyes to dart around. “Mom? This is a huge nostalgia vibe right here.” Others recalled variations that swapped potato chips for cracker crumbs.
“It’s possibly the most Midwestern thing I’ve ever cooked,” Dombrosky said.
Eakins’ most “experimental” recipe was ramen noodles served cold with peanut butter sauce. “Interesting,” declared a couple of honors students. Less-adventurous palates gravitated toward cheesy corn and rotini with pasta sauce and cheese.
“We’ve both worked” in the culinary arts, Dombrosky said. “I started cooking in college. When we lived in Seattle, there was a time when we both cooked professionally and had our own catering business. (Italian restaurateur) Massimo Bottura started doing these pop-up kinds of things with food kitchens and homeless shelters.”