Chopped: Cooking wellness edition


Keenan Schember

Anna von Kampen hard at work to prepare the featured dish of the day.

There is one wellness class that every student at Benilde-St. Margaret’s wants to be in: cooking. It sounds amazing: all you do is cook delicious foods that are guaranteed to greet a person’s palate with an aroma of victory and justice in the form of whatever recipe is simple enough to fit on an eight and a half by eleven sheet of white paper. Mr. Hanson’s recipes are often in the range of “my nephew could bake this,” to “some assembly required,” and finally “caution: skilled chefs only.” There are a few, a prized and precious few, who are competing with each other to make the best dishes inside the north building conference room kitchen.

The first of these many challenges was a recipe with a difficulty of “my nephew could bake this.” There were some leaders right out of the gate who already were showing extreme promise in preparing the “pre-cut, pre-cooked, all you have to do is bake them” cookies. They sprayed the pan with a healthy dose of oily Pam, and promptly hand rolled their cookies into wonderfully pressed circles and ovals. The baking section, the only part of this challenge, would either make or break the cookie. Some students, who shall remain nameless, *cough cough Elizabeth Kupchella,* made their cookies so thick that once they began to bake they engulfed the entire pan and claimed the lives of three other innocent and unsuspecting cookies.

Hanson’s recipes are often in the range of ‘my nephew could bake this,’ to ‘some assembly required,’ and finally ‘caution: skilled chefs only.’

— Jimmy Youngblut

The second challenge was more along the lines of “some assembly required.” Ice cream in a bag; sure, it sounds simple. It wasn’t. Not only did the ingredients have go into the bag, but the contents had to be shaken in the bag. This increased the chances of the bag exploding with ice cream flying everywhere to a dangerous level. Also, the contents of the bag were wicked cold and the shaking of the bag had to be done with precision and care, so as to not destroy the end product. In the end, the majority of students were able to consume their salty ice cream without much of an issue, and it was another successful day of cooking.

The final challenge was a recipe that required skill that can only be supplied at Le Cordon Bleu. This cooking extravaganza even warned of its intensity “caution: skilled chefs only”––crepes. This was the first time that the cooking class would be operating so many key elements at once. Not only did the batter have to be made, but the crepe had to be flipped. Some people didn’t make it. Their crepes burned as they had neglected cooking rule number one: “Pam is your friend for pans.”

Students dropped like flies as the perfect finesse required to flip the crepe burned and flattened many of the participants until there were only two remaining. It came down to the final moments in the competition to craftsmanship, originality, taste, and aesthetics. When the two crepes were presented to the judge, one resembled an omelet, the folds nicely concealing the strawberries, Nutella, and whipped cream. The other? A perfected ornate Nutella cinnamon burrito, accented with the proper proportions of whipped cream and decoratively placed strawberries. In aesthetics, it was a draw. In taste, well, the judges are still deliberating.

Cooking may be the most physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging wellness class offered at Benilde. Chefs have to learn grace under pressure and follow the recipes that the culinary guru, Mr. Hansen, has placed before them, and only then can they achieve a seventy percent to pass the class of culinary cuisine.