By Samantha Reed
Those who are dreaming of paradise simply need to head to Daly’s on Thursday.
On April 28, Daly’s dining hall will be transformed into a chocolate wonderland, á la Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, as it hosts Rider’s third annual Dessert Wars, with this year’s focus, Chocolate Explosion.
The competition, presented by Rider’s 107.7 The Bronc radio station, will feature five student bakers who use original or family recipes, hoping to make the best chocolate-themed dessert and be crowned the winner.
This year, the winning recipe will be added to the menu at Enzo’s La Piccola Cucina in Ewing as the featured dessert
The winner will also take home a six-month supply of chocolate from David Bradley Chocolatier of East Windsor, $150 in Bronc Bucks, 10 tickets to a 2016 Trenton Thunder baseball game, a pair of tickets to Leonard Nimoy’s Vincent at the Theater at St. Clements in New York City and four tickets to Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus XTREME.
The competition acts as a sweet counterpart to Rider’s savory cooking competition, Student Top Chef, where the recipes are primarily focused on main-course entrees.
“Dessert Wars is a spin-off of Rider Student Top Chef,” said John Mozes, general manager of The Bronc. “We found students who entered dessert recipes kept winning our Top Chef competition, so we decided to split it into two separate contests.”
Since its development in 2014, Dessert Wars has become an annual benchmark promotion for the station, according to Mozes. The Bronc staff and Rider Dining work together each year to come up with new and exciting ideas for the competition, last year’s theme being “Candyland” and this year’s being “Chocolate Explosion.”
Judges score each recipe based on four factors: recipe composition, arrangement, taste and incorporation of the key ingredient: chocolate.
The judges of this year’s competition are Anna Scozzari, owner of Enzo’s La Piccola Cucina; Christine O’Brian, owner of David Bradley Chocolatier; and Mike Foster, general manager of Applebee’s Bar and Grill.
It’s not just the judges who have a say in who will win, though. Students in Daly’s are encouraged to sample each recipe and text the name of their favorite baker to a number.
Students will also have the chance to sample free chocolates provided by David Bradley Chocolatiers and even try some chocolate-covered garlic from Enzo’s La Piccola Cucina.
Michelle Gurbisz, a senior accounting major and first-time Dessert Wars participant, is a finalist in this year’s competition.
Gurbisz, who says she’s been baking since she was 5 or 6 years old, put a twist on a recipe from her mom’s cookbook called “Tuxedo Bites” as her entry for the Chocolate Explosion finale.
“I’ve always loved to bake,” Gurbisz said. “I bake something for every family gathering I go to. I knew this competition would be a perfect fit for me, and now I have a chance to show everyone how great this dessert is.”
Gurbisz and the other student pastry chefs will meet with the Rider Dining sous chefs around 2 p.m. on Thursday to start baking their treats. Desserts will be served to students, guests and judges between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.; the winner will be announced shortly after.
It’s not a matter of how many entries Dessert Wars gets or who wins the competition that makes a good contest, Mozes explained. It’s getting students involved, talking and excited that make the experience worth it.
What is one thing Gurbisz will keep in mind the day of the competition? Enjoyment.
“I’m here because Rider offered me this great opportunity, and I’m just going to have fun with it!”
More information on Dessert Wars: Chocolate Explosion can be found at www.1077TheBronc.com.
Printed in the 4/27/16 edition.