Ankeny, Iowa – On March 6, three teams of Iowa State University (ISU) students competed in the championship round of the second annual “Soy You Think You Can Cook” contest, creating dishes with recipes they had developed using edamame, silken tofu and/or water pack tofu.
The contest was sponsored by The Soyfoods Council to develop awareness and interest in soy.
The Soyfoods Council Executive Director Linda Funk, who judged the competition, said, “It is fun to see such innovation and to taste the creative ways students have found for handling soy. It is good for Iowa to come up with such interesting and delicious soyfood dishes. The Soyfoods Council will use these recipes at events across the country and with soybean farmers.”
The competition grew from six teams last year to nine this year. Contestants included culinary science, food science, nutrition, dietetics and hospitality majors.
Ruth MacDonald, chair of ISU’s Food and Human Nutrition Department, said, “This contest is a great opportunity for students to be creative, work in a team and practice and show off what they’ve learned in class. It’s exciting.”
ISU Culinary Science Coordinator Beirman, who advises students, teaches food preparation labs and supervises the internship program for culinary science students, teamed with The Soyfoods Council to organize the competition. She explained to the audience that, at each of three qualifying rounds, three teams had competed with one being selected at each for a spot in the final contest. Each team developed an entrée recipe as well as one side. In the first round, judges offered suggestions for improving their recipes so the finalists could tweak and make improvements.
On March 6, the three finalist teams prepared their dishes in the ISU Memorial Union in front of an audience of judges and fellow students, as well as prospective students and their parents. They were competing for the first, second, and third place prizes of $500, $300 and $200 respectively.
Joining Funk and MacDonald to judge the championship round was Nancy Levandowski, director of ISU Dining, who said she looks forward to incorporating contest recipes in ISU Dining, to introduce soy to university students who might not otherwise try it.
The contest champions were the Vitality team, with team members Krista McCarty from Hartley; Emily Wiemer, Minnetonka, Minnesota; and Lumeng Jin from China. Their entrée was a seafood soup made with scallops, shrimp and featuring shrimp-stuffed tofu. Their side was a dip created with silken tofu, blended edamame, carmelized onions, mango chutney and curry, and served with baked pita chips.
“This soup, with its stuffed tofu, could go up against any chef,” Funk said. “The broth is delicious. It is very innovative, both in flavor and presentation.” She also said the Vitality team’s dip was “a nice sweet and savory mix.”
The Vitality teammates called their win “an exciting surprise!” They agreed that working together to develop their recipe was the best part of the experience.
The Tasty Tofu team, which included Kayla Marsh of Maquoketa, and Kendall Olson of Mason City, both culinary science majors, took second place. They served an open-faced edamame and crusted tofu open-face sandwich on gluten-free bread. Their side dish was a raw butternut squash salad with edamame and cranberries. Marsh had been experimenting with raw food and eats tofu sandwiches prior to the contest, so they tweaked some of her recipes for the contest. Marsh and Olson, who entered because they enjoyed participating in the competition last year, said the most valuable part of the experience was competing together.
Noting the trend toward raw food and also how important gluten-free cooking has become, the judges called their recipes timely and said they show how soy fits food trends. Funk noted that their raw butternut squash had particularly nice flavor
The third place prize winners were the team Kung Fu Tofu, comprised of Seon, Choi, and Taeuk, students from South Korea who had modified some of Seon’s mother’s recipes. They made tofuballs (like meatballs), made with tofu, chives, carrots, and onions. Their side was tofu yogurt, with oranges and honey. The KungFu Tofu team said they got involved for “money and pride,” but found the most valuable part of the experience was cooking as a team.
The judges expressed special appreciation for the interesting soy dishes the three had created with influence from their homeland’s cuisine.
In awarding the prizes, Funk said she hopes to see the students’ recipes featured in food magazines. “I am thrilled with all of these. It is fun to see how the teams incorporated judges’ suggestions from the first round of competition and made improvements.”