By Megan Lupo
The smell of cheesy, greasy goodness filled the air at Daly’s, as three student chefs cooked it out at 107.7 The Bronc’s fifth annual Rider Student Top Chef finale on Nov. 12 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
This year’s theme of comfort foods was chosen because of the popularity of last year’s international foods theme.
“We went global, so now we just bring it closer to home,” said The Bronc’s general manager, John Mozes. “And it seemed like it had a really good response with the entries, and the style of food that we brought in. You can see from the qualifying contestants; we got bacon cheeseburger in a pie. It’s not, like, kale.”
As culinary creations were being cooked for the hungry crowd, the finalists, sophomore film, radio and TV major Austin Bradley, senior theater performance major Alex Albritton and senior arts administration major Savoia Buntin, encouraged students to vote for their favorite dish by texting “Austin,” “Alex,” or “Savoia” to The Bronc.
“It’s scary, but really exciting at the same time,” Buntin said. “I’ve been dreaming about this competition for the past two days.”
Each contestant presented a unique dish — Bradley made chorizo fried eggs, Buntin made a bacon cheeseburger pie, and Albritton made “drop dead mac and cheeeezzeeee,” which she said earned its name from the fact that it “could kill you. It’s a lot of calories.”
Despite the high caloric intake, it was a way for Albritton to honor her family’s cooking. Albritton said she chose this dish because “my grandmother, she’s from the South and they just cook.”
In between cooking and serving these not-so-lean cuisines, another chef found his contentment in this competition.
“I haven’t cooked properly in a long time,” Bradley said. “I used to cook all throughout high school at home, but since coming to college, my resources have been a little more limited. I guess this was just a chance for me to cook a little more.”
Bradley’s dish was also influenced by a family member.
“I got it from my mother,” Bradley said. “She did the chorizo salsa on many things. I never tried it on eggs, though. I found the egg recipe on vice.com, and I saw that it used the salsa, and I thought it would go good together.”
As students sampled and mingled around the dining hall, Mozes remarked, “The goal is to further weave the fabric of the Rider community. I mean, further blend everybody together, have a good time, because food’s the one thing we all like to [share].”
To Bradley, comfort food means that it “sits comfortably at the bottom of your stomach so your stomach’s like a pillow, and you can just nap immediately afterwards.”
Ultimately, Buntin took top prize and won a VIP Bowling Party for 25 at Colonial Bowling and Entertainment, a 16 gigabyte iPad Mini, $200 in Bronc Bucks, a PJ’s Pancake House $50 gift card and the opportunity for her recipe to be featured as a special menu item at one of Gretalia Hospitality Group’s restaurants.
After her name was announced, pictures were taken, and Daly’s went back to normal.
“I feel relaxed now,” Buntin said. “Winning feels great, but I was really nervous going into the competition. My first reaction was ‘I really won this, I couldn’t believe it,’ but I was so happy. I tried something, had a goal, and I was successful. And, I’m excited to celebrate with my friends and family.”
Although the prizes were appealing to all three contestants, cooking meant much more than winning.
Albritton’s joy for cooking goes beyond the competition. “I make myself breakfast every morning. And if I don’t feel like walking to Daly’s, I make myself dinner.”
Buntin remarked that she loves cooking because “it is so freeing and fun. When I’m at home, and I’m cooking, I have music blasting and I’m dancing in the kitchen.”
And the advice Buntin gave, as she was distributing her dish to the masses, rings true to all the cooks out there. “Whether you’re an amateur chef or an aspiring professional chef, just keep cooking. It’s fun, and do whatever makes you happy.”
Printed in the 11/18/15 edition.