Student Nutrition Association Hosts First "Top Chef: Bastyr" Competition

Top Chef winners Sasha and Tina at work in the kitchen.

More than 100 onlookers oohed and aahed at the first annual "Top Chef: Bastyr" competition, a crowd-pleasing event that's sure to become a popular tradition at Bastyr University.

On January 21, 2011, eight teams of two students each competed for the coveted title of "Bastyr University’s Top Chefs." The winners, Sasha Selden and Tina Fogall, from the Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Culinary Arts program, won the judges over with their creative Chickpea Tagine with Dandelion Green Gremolata.

Sponsored by the Student Nutrition Association, the event raised $1,200 for the association's meal team for Teen Feed, which provides hot meals to Seattle's homeless youth.

Students in a variety of Bastyr programs competed for the "Top Chef" title, but Selden and Fogall's experience in the culinary program just may have given them an advantage. "When we're in the cooking class together, we sometimes look at it like it’s a 'Top Chef' competition," says Fogall of the popular Bravo Network cooking show.

"Class is pretty competitive," Selden adds. "We look at each other's creations and compare."

Both women have cooked since they were young, but their true advantage may be something else entirely: parenthood. "We're both moms, so we had an edge with that one," Fogall admits. "We’re used to having to take ingredients that don't go together and make them taste good."

"That’s what you have to do when you're a 'starving' student and a mom," Selden adds.

The women knew they could work together because of their experience in class. "We had classes together, and our styles complemented one another," Selden says. "We worked well in the kitchen space, and we have a lot in common."

While they clearly had a chance of winning, Fogall and Selden actually credit their win to the difficulty of their ingredients, which factored into the judging. Being the next-to-last group to pick their ingredients left them with an odd assortment of items, including dandelion greens and canned mushrooms. The protein source they inherited was chickpeas, unlike the more easily adapted chicken or shrimp. "I'd never made anything like this before," Selden says. "I love chickpeas but I never cook with them."

Smart spicing made a difference. "Sasha mixed a bunch of spices together; she's really good at that part," Fogall says. Also, the women received points for cleaning their station as they cooked, which also factored into the judging. Again, being multitasking moms came in handy.

Level of difficulty or cleanliness aside, the recipe ultimately tasted delicious, Selden says. "We ended up with something different than we started out thinking," Fogall says. "It evolved."

The winners' prize? Each won a generous gift certificate for an acupuncture treatment and a meal at a local vegetarian restaurant.

Unfortunately, they don’t plan to go public with their recipe. "People ask for the recipe, but I don’t know if I’d make it again," Fogall says. "I would make it differently, put in more vegetables and use real vegetable stock. But, come to think of it, I would make the gremolata again."

For a week, they enjoyed their celebrity. But by now, their star power has faded, and it’s back to business. Fortunately, the daily grind in the nutrition and culinary arts program is something Selden and Fogall enjoy.

"We love the program," Selden says. "It's really fun."