On 5 October 2017, 12 teams of enthusiastic participants gathered at the IMU Nutrition and Dietetics Lab (N & D Lab) for the first ever Aurora MasterChef competition, organised by the Student-Staff Interaction Activity (SSIA) team from IMU Student Ambassadors in conjunction with the IMU Food Freaks Club. All 36 participants were decked in aprons and head caps, ready to be chefs of the hour. At 6:45pm, the timer sounded, and off the teams went to prepare their dishes of pasta, out of which 3 prizes would be awarded at the end of the competition.
The idea of a cooking competition stemmed from the financial manager of the SSIA team, Pichien. Inspired by the television programme MasterChef America, he suggested hosting one at IMU and was met with hearty agreement from the other members of SSIA team, as the idea was refreshing and met the team’s main objective of encouraging closer bonds within the IMU community. Official planning for the event began in August.
Planning for an unprecedented on-campus cooking competition was no easy feat. Constant meetings between the SSIA team and IMU Food Freaks Club were necessary to discuss various matters pertaining details and logistics of the event, such as establishing the exact dish to be cooked, when to disclose relevant information to participants, and general timeline of planning and execution. Fundraising efforts were carried out by the SSIA team, as well as the hunt for judges for the competition. Liaison with pertinent departments such as the Nutrition and Dietetics Lab and the IMU FMA was also managed by the SSIA team. Outlining of the amount and types of cooking ingredients was a joint effort between the two organising sides, likewise for the acquiring of the ingredients that were to be used. The criterion that had set Aurora MasterChef apart from other student activities was its participating team makeup- each team must consist of 2 students and 1 staff member. The main purpose of this was to foster closer bonds between students and staff members; teamwork and communication were among other values to be gained from the competition. When registration opened in mid-September, it was not long before the ideal sign-ups of 12 teams were met. Before starting the competition proper, the teams were engaged in a titillating mini-game to determine the order by which the teams choose their pasta ingredients. The team that poured out an amount of water closest to 54 grams (without looking at the measuring scale!) was to be the first to choose. An incredible thing happened then- one of the teams managed to pour exactly 54 grams into beaker! Safe to say, everyone was duly impressed. It was on this note of high spirits that the cooking began. Pots clanged. Knives chopped. Pots stirred. In the rising heat of the kitchen, one thing was clear- all teams were eager to present their best on the plate. There was a great variety of pasta style- from tomato sauce to cream sauce to stir fry, the air was thick with creativity.
Emcee Shamir Das recounted his experience, “Despite the high intensity in the kitchen, I witnessed a lot of cooperation and bonding between the students and staff between and within groups. Not to mention, the variety of aroma of dishes filling the environment and the heart-pounding moments of the judging at the end made it an interesting, exhausting and memorable day for me overall.” It was heartwarming to observe every team working seamlessly together, and equally joyous to see laughter shared among team members even amidst the competition tension.
When the hour was up, each team presented its pasta dish to a panel of 3 esteemed judges: A/ Prof Rokiah binti Don (head judge), Dr Chang Sui Kiat, and Lim Foo How. The vibrant colors and delicate decorations of each pasta dish were a sight to behold; the delightful aromas were promising a cry for more. The judging criteria included taste, presentation, and color. Judge and President of IMU Food Freaks Club Lim Foo How commented, “I am personally very satisfied with the event because as every dish was being presented to me, I could see and feel the absence of the barrier between the staff and students, working together to create these stunning dishes and have fun together.” After tasting and feedback by the panel, the pasta dishes were up for another judging by selected audience members for the Popularity Prize. The atmosphere was fraught with anticipation at the end of judging. There was much merriment when the winners were announced:
|First Prize||Team Pavlova (Bushra Farooq, Ong Yee Chen, Dr Shamala Ramasamy)|
|Second Prize||The Homecooks (Nur Amalin binti Rosly, Anndriana Kelety anak Udin, Nur Farazilla)|
|Popularity Prize||The Amateur Cooks (Sadiya Parvin, Tan Chen Hui, Shirley Evelynn)|
The event came to a close as participants and the organising committee took a group photo to commemorate the successful experience. The event was more than a mere cook-off among its participants; it was a great learning experience for its organisers as well. Emcee Bryan Wong commented, “Being an emcee for a cooking competition was definitely my first, but the experience gained from it will surely last me a lifetime. Big thanks to the committee and the participants for making this event a memorable one.” Project leader, Josh Ng of SSIA team also shared his experience, “Firstly, planning a cooking competition in N & D Lab sounded like a ridiculous idea as no club/association has successfully applied before except for big projects such as IMU Cares, Chariofare, et cetera. Thankfully, through all the hard work, we finally met all requirements stated by Multidisciplinary Lab authorities. As the concept was completely new to us, we had to plan from scratch but we managed to prevail over all the obstacles.” “The hardest part of the competition was to recruit 12 teams of students and staff. But I was surprised when the responses were overwhelming which motivated us to work harder! Regarding the execution, credits go to IMU Food Freaks Club which helped a lot in the aspect of ingredients preparation. Everything was moving smoothly throughout the competition which led to a happy ending.”
“As a project leader, I feel extremely glad that this competition brought students and staff from different background/departments to work with each other with no boundaries which fulfilled our main objective: to create a close-knitted community among students and staff in IMU. Not forgetting the people behind this competition: SSIA team especially Head of Competition, Ng Phui Qi and Bryan Wong and IMU Food Freaks Club. They deserve all the credit as this was totally team effort! Even though this event was over, let’s not forget to continue to splash each other life with colours!”
The night ended on a lighthearted note among much chatter and enjoyment of dinner courtesy of IMU Student Services Department. It was definitely a night to remember for all. More photos available at IMU Photography Facebook. Photo credits: IMU Photography Club Related articles: Passion in Cooking Led to Aurora Masterchef Win