Students compete in sushi making at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Hillel.
The Hillel Foundation at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was a flourish of color and heated competition last week when Hillel and eight Greek houses joined together for the first "Greek Iron Chef: Battle Sushi."
Eighty students, too many to fit into the Hillel sukkah, crammed onto the Hillel Foundation porch last Tuesday night to test their sushi-making skills in a battle loosely based on the popular Food Network TV show, "Iron Chef."
An adaptation of the annual Illinois Hillel "Sushi in the Sukkah" event, "Greek Iron Chef" aimed to gather Greek students in healthy competition while fostering a sense of community and teamwork.
“During the sushi event in past years we noticed the majority of people who attended were Greek students,” said Illinois Hillel Jewish Student Life Coordinator Aliza Goodman. “We thought this would be a great opportunity to make an event central to the Greek Houses and work towards revamping our Greek Life programming.”
According to co-coordinator and Sigma Delta Tau Sister Nikki Feldt, few events bring together multiple Greek houses at the same time. “Iron Chef provided an environment for everyone to compete head-to-head,” she said. “The event created a close and comfortable atmosphere for everyone to get excited.”
Sixteen teams comprised of five students each were given 30 minutes to prepare various sushi rolls using the ingredients such seaweed avocado, cucumber, carrot, imitation crab, cream cheese, smoke salmon and rice which were then judged on presentation, creativity and taste.
Teams were slowly weeded out until it came down to the sisters of Sigma Delta Tau and Gamma Phi Beta. Each team was left with 10 minutes to roll sushi. As an added challenge, mango had to be incorporated into each sushi roll.
In the end, Gamma Phi Beta came out the winners, receiving a prize of $240 to be donated to Campfire USA, the house philanthropy.
“The SDT team had an awesome presentation,” said Gamma Phi Beta Philanthropy Chair Erin Aquino. “But, I think my team ultimately won because we used more mango. ”
The ingredients Hillel provided allowed for teams to make up to 60 pieces of sushi each, enough to feed all the participants and spectators following the competition.
Feldt feels a great sense of accomplishment following the event. “I am excited about the new name Hillel has created for the university and how we truly got ourselves out there to the Greek community,” she said.
“The program was a great way form Greek students, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, to celebrate a Jewish holiday in a creative and meaningful way,” said Goodman.