Students Put Their Culinary Skills to the Test at "Top Chef: Bastyr"

Photos courtesy Elisha Rain
Marianne Rees and Carole Freeman cook in the Bastyr nutrition kitchen

She was a little nervous, but it was a good kind of nervous. The positive kind where you want to do a good job and impress people, rather than the worrying kind, where you're afraid you'll screw up.

"I was definitely anxious, but only because I wanted to win," says Karina Churchill, a first-year student in Bastyr University's Bachelor of Science in Nutrition program who competed in the second annual "Top Chef: Bastyr" competition on January 13, 2012.

More than 150 fans and supporters waited in the Bastyr Dining Commons as seven teams of two students prepped, cooked and plated dishes in the University's nutrition kitchen. Like the TV show of the same name, "Top Chef: Bastyr" gave the teams an hour to come up with their best dishese by using only what they were provided. In this case, each team received a bag of common groceries including vegetables and fruits, as well as a specific protein and a grain.

"I cook every day at home, but this was a lot different," Churchill says. "I had to learn how to cook quickly, efficiently and use the most with what I had at my disposal."

And learn Churchill did, along with her cooking partner: Dubbed the "Upbeet Duo," they took second place in the competition with their meal featuring salmon, oat groats and a vegetable side dish. They were second only to third-year undergrad student Marianne Rees and her partner Carole Freeman, also known as, "Our Food Tastes Like Crop(s)," who took the top prize with a chicken and quinoa dish.

"We participated last year and didn't place, so we wanted to do better this year," Rees says.

More importantly, Rees says the opportunity to participate in a friendly rivalry, get to know people in other programs, and explore food outside of a structured class setting while helping raise money for charity was priceless.

All proceeds of the sold-out event benefited Teen Feed, an organization that serves Seattle's homeless youth with help from the Bastyr University Student Nutrition Association.

"100 percent of the money we raised will be used to provide homeless teenagers nutritious meals," says Teresa Yi, who organized the event with Korrin Fotheringham. "To me, that is the ultimate reward for all our effort."

In addition to that warm fuzzy feeling, audience members were rewarded with the extra helpings of food the teams shared after they plated meals for the three guest judges. Although the judges picked Bastyr's top chefs, the audience also made their pick, awarding "Team Root Down," starring Alicia Armeli and Ellie Freeman, the 2012 People's Choice winners.

Despite the name of the event, it wasn't only about winning, Churchill reminds us: "It didn't matter where you ended up placing. This was a lot fun, people got to eat our food and we got to share our cooking. It was a great experience."