Emily Ritter takes the cake as new Rider Student Top Chef

By Nicole Cortese

Runner-up Brian Schauer, grand prize winner Emily Ritter and third place winner Megan Manata pose with their signature dishes after an intensive vetting process in order to determine which of their original recipes garnered the most votes in the Rider Student Top Chef competition at Daly’s.

Rider students had a sweet tooth for the second year in a row when voting for this year’s new Rider Student Top Chef. Amid the chaos of the dinnertime rush at Daly’s on March 28, the second annual competition took center stage for hungry students.

Derived from the hit Bravo reality show, Top Chef, Rider students pushed their culinary skills to the limit to submit a recipe for this year’s Rider Student Top Chef competition hosted by 107.7 the Bronc. Sophomore secondary education and biology major Emily Ritter was crowned the new Top Chef with her winning recipe, “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Bars.”

“At first I did not know what recipe to choose,” Ritter said. “I know a couple of family recipes, but I wanted to come up with something creative and different.”

This year’s competition had 29 entries that were submitted, and the judges had to narrow it down to three finalists with delectable dishes. In addition to Ritter’s dessert, junior entrepreneurial studies major Megan Manata submitted “Grilled (Mac and) Cheese,” and junior business administration major Brian Schauer submitted “Pollo Catalano.”

Eligibility for the contest began on Feb. 20, when students were asked to submit up to two recipes that were considered creative and simple. The deadline for entries ran until March 14. Each finalist submitted an original and simplistic recipe with a gourmet twist.

“I really enjoy cooking, but I would consider myself to be more of a baker,” Ritter said. “When I was younger, I would help my dad bake and decorate the cookies during the holidays. It wasn’t until high school that I started baking more often.”

Fellow students were welcome to watch each contestant prepare his or her original recipe firsthand and taste-test a plateful. A voting station was set up alongside the chefs where students were able to vote for their favorite dish via Facebook.

“The other recipes looked really tasty but it is hard to compare mine to others because I had the only dessert,” Ritter said. “Who doesn’t love a good cheesecake?”

Ritter, this year’s grand prize winner, received an 18-piece Wolfgang Puck stainless steel cookware set, a $100 Advantage Plus membership from Sam’s Club, $100 in Bronc Bucks, $50 in gift certificates to PJ’s Pancake House, and will have the winning recipe featured on the PJ’s Pancake House menu. In addition to these prizes, the winning recipe will also be featured on the menu at Daly’s for the remainder of the spring semester.

Ritter has a passion for baking and sharing the fun and results with her family.

“One of my favorite things to make is pretzel salad: a strawberry, pretzel, whipped cream and Jell-O dessert,” Ritter said. “Pretzel salad isn’t very difficult to make, but everyone in my family loves it and always suggests I make it when we have a family gathering.”

This year’s runner up, Schauer, received $75 in Bronc Bucks, a $40 College membership from Sam’s Club and $40 in gift certificates to PJ’s Pancake House. His Pollo Catalano recipe will also be featured on the menu at Daly’s for the remainder of the spring 2013 semester.

Grilled (Mac and) Cheese, Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Bars and Pollo Catalano were the main courses for Rider’s second annual Top Chef. Emily Ritter’s dessert received the most votes.

“The competition called for simplicity and creativity,” Schauer said. “So knowing that, I wanted to do something completely original. So I literally went to the grocery store and just walked around and bought a few items, and when I came home, just decided to put it all together.”

Manata, the third place winner, did not go home empty handed and received $50 in Bronc Bucks, a $40 College membership from Sam’s Club and $30 in gift certificates to PJ’s Pancake House. Her recipe will also be featured on the menu at Daly’s for the remainder of the semester.

“Ultimately I chose a grilled mac and cheese sandwich because I like to keep up with food trends,” Manata said. “While grilled mac and cheese may already have had its day, I love the idea of putting a gourmet spin on it by combining two foods that are so comforting into something incredibly delicious and cheesy.”

With a great student turnout, the final results were extremely close and now both winning recipes are desserts. The recipes for each entry can be found on the 107.7 The Bronc Facebook page under the Rider Student Top Chef contest.

Printed in the 3/29/13 edition.

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