Text by Savannah Sperry
Video by Michelle Logan
An acoustic guitar played behind the chatter of more than 100 attendees of the Real Food Collaborative’s Green Chef Competition on the evening of April 26. Held on the outdoor patio of Bliss Cafe in downtown San Luis Obispo overlooking the babbling creek below, it was a fitting location for an event celebrating environmental sustainability.
The annual competition pitted amateur student chefs against one another for best dish of their category, voted by the crowd of attendees. Working individually or in groups, 15 teams entered to compete in one of three rounds: appetizer, entree or dessert.
Like many high-intensity Food Network shows, the Green Chef Competition had a catch — each round had a secret ingredient announced only two days before the competition. The secret ingredients were artichokes in the appetizer round, strawberries in the entree round and beets for the dessert round.
“It’s mostly focused around getting a secret ingredient donated from local farmers,” said forestry junior and Real Food Collaborative officer Eli Grinberg, who was in charge of procuring the competition’s secret ingredients. “It’s not to screw people over, but to see how creative they can get.”
The event was co-organized by Real Food Collaborative president and environmental management junior Jesse Gibson and the club’s vice president and crop science junior, Camille Freeman, as well as other club members.
“This is a long tradition,” Gibson said. “It’s probably the longest-running tradition of the club, and so it’s just a really cool opportunity for us to interface with the community and just make really innovative vegetarian dishes.”
Furthermore, the competition is a platform for students to showcase their culinary skills using local and organic ingredients while highlighting the secret ingredient for each round, Gibson said.
The winning dish for the appetizer round was a sliced baguette topped with an artichoke bruschetta. For the entree round, the winner was strawberry pizza bianca: focaccia bread with arugula, caramelized onions, herb goat cheese, walnuts, strawberry, balsamic reduction and lemon zest. The winning dish of the dessert round featured two petite almond cakes sandwiching a creamy beet filling topped with honey comb and beet chips.
Prizes for the winners of each round included gift cards to favorite local restaurants like Sally Loo’s Wholesome Cafe and Natural Cafe, as well as a month pass of unlimited yoga classes from Yoga Centre SLO.
“It’s an annual event, so we’re going to try and do it again in the fall,” Gibson said.
Freeman said the money made from the event’s ticket sales will go toward furthering the goals of Real Food Collaborative — creating a healthier, more sustainable and stronger community around food on Cal Poly’s campus.
Photos by Savannah Sperry