Eagles vs. Aggies in the kitchen
Still soaring from N.C. Central University’s recent historic basketball win over N.C. State University, the Eagles didn’t mind a culinary loss Thursday to rival N.C. Agricultural & Technical State University. NCCU and N.C. A&T competed in the first “Battle of the Chefs: The Bull versus the Boro Edition” in the Pearson Cafeteria at NCCU.
NCCU Chancellor Debra Saunders-White and Executive Chef Derrick McCorkle faced off with A&T Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. and Executive Chef Katie Williams. Well, not so much faced off as worked side by side as they shared the long counter in a corner kitchen of the cafeteria. They exchanged smiles and camaraderie as they cooked an appetizer and entrée using a secret ingredient later revealed as bacon.
Angela Peterson, associate vice chancellor for campus enterprise at N.C. A&T, said the schools were taking the competition to the kitchen before their big rivalry on the football field Saturday when they compete in Greensboro.
Shelita Nelson, general manager for dining services at NCCU, emceed the event.
“We’re still excited about last night,” she said, referring to the basketball win.
In the kitchen, the chefs and chancellors cooked calmly, talked quietly and moved quickly as they worked on their tasks. Saunders-White and Martin wore commemorative chef toques with their school’s name and mascot.
“Are you guys quiet because you’re concentrating? We’re not going to hear any trash talking?” Nelson asked the teams.
As they plated their appetizers onto white and maroon dishes with the NCCU seal, their choices were revealed: both sautéed shrimp, NCCU serving it with pasta and A&T with cucumbers. Things heated up a bit during the entrée portion, with Martin jokingly blocking McCorkle in the kitchen.
The two-hour battle was also hosted by Sodexo Quality of Life Services, the food service provider for both colleges. Beyond bragging rights, the winner also received 20 turkey dinner baskets donated in its name to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Judging the chef-chancellor team dishes were Miss NCCU Mahalia Frost, Mr. NCCU Cornelius Richardson, Mr. N.C. A&T Anthony Fitzhugh, A&T student Maya Ford, who is secretary of the student food advisory board, and Matt Dees, editor of Durham Magazine. They judged on presentation, technical difficulty and taste. While the chefs cooked, Mr. NCCU and Mr. A&T, both in ties and school color blazers, chatted amiably.
Ford said she was pleasantly surprised at the high quality of food and that the chancellors were cooking as well as the chefs.
“They brought their A game. It’s going to be really close,” she said. The rivalry between the schools is a friendly one, the students said. Everyone is having a good time, Richardson said.
“I do hope we’ll win, but also happy it’s all for a good cause – donating to the Food Bank,” said Frost.
When it came down to the scores, though, the Aggies had the advantage. A&T won appetizers 129 to 116, and entrees 115 to 107. NCCU’s entrée was filet mignon with asparagus and potato, while A&T served up tuna tacos with Asian noodles and chili garlic sauce. Eagles and Aggies issued call and response cheers for their schools.
“The next battle is on the field,” Nelson said.
The schools will meet again in the kitchen for a February event to benefit the community in Greensboro. Saunders-White told Martin to keep the trophy warm until next time.
After the battle, Martin said he had fun and never thought of it in a sincere way as a competition. It was a great cause and fun, and at the end of the day 20 families in their community benefited from a more enjoyable Thanksgiving, he said.
“It’s also great to see students so enthused,” Martin said.
Saunders-White said that NCCU’s mission is dedicated to service, and it was a great way to show that.
“It felt like a competition, I tell you. I was sweating,” she said. She also said it was wonderful to see the students together. “It was a fun day,” Saunders-White said.