Nine Notre Dame dorms competed in North and South Dining Halls during dinnertime Wednesday night in the semifinals of Flaherty Hall’s spring signature event, Flaherty Food Fights. The annual cooking tournament, modeled off the Food Network show, “Chopped,” raises money for Beacon Children’s Hospital in South Bend.
While many dorm events might involve food in some shape or form, Flaherty Hall spring vice president Jane Stallman said the market for live cooking competitions remains untapped on campus.
“There’s like 8 million 5Ks, 8 million music festivals, 8 million singing competitions or talent shows,” Stallman said. “It’s a great event because it’s something niche.”
Grace Markovich, Flaherty Hall’s fall vice president, said doing the event in the dining halls in front of the student body is what makes it meaningful.
“I think it’s so cool because so many [dorm] events are at night like in Washington hall or 5Ks are in the morning, so you don’t see them as much,” Markovich said. “But a lot of people are getting dinner at 5 o’clock so everybody gets to see it happening, and so many people were asking us about it.”
The teams of two to five chefs were allotted the complete resources of their respective dining hall to whip something up in 15 minutes, Flaherty Hall president Celeste Hirschi said. Campus Dining could also accommodate specific requests like ones for eggs, dill or extra knives.
“One of our teams asked to plug in the waffle maker,” Hirschi said. “[Campus Dining] was like, ‘Yeah, we’ll get on that,’ and they did.”
Fisher Hall’s Josh Sequeira, Jack Waddick and Graham Ragsdale showed up to South Dining Hall’s semifinal wearing matching Starbucks aprons and headbands. Markovich said the Fisher Hall team refused to refer to each other by anything other than “chef” throughout the duration of the contest.
“We did [the food fights] last year, and we came in second place behind a guy who went to culinary school, so that showed us that we had what it took to really make it to the big leagues,” Waddick said. “So this year, we decided we would round up the troops — the best cooks we know.”
Fisher Hall’s Greek-American Souvlaki sandwich — made from a toasted sandwich roll, shredded chicken, lettuce, shaved carrots, homemade tzatziki, feta and French fries — won first place in South Dining Hall’s semifinal, accumulating points for presentation, “balance,” taste and integration of the special ingredient: Greek yogurt.
Presentation to the judges — experts from Campus Dining, student body president Daniel Jung in North Dining Hall and assistant vice president for Campus Ministry Fr. Pete McCormick in South Dining Hall — was a big factor how a team scored, Stallman suspected.
After learning of the special ingredient, Stallman said one guy on the Fisher Hall team went off on some “tzatziki rant” and claimed to have studied abroad in Greece.
“I honestly don’t even know if he studied abroad in Greece,” Stallman said. “He could have made that up, but it was convincing. I would go out on a limb and say no one in food fights has any cooking experience.”
Markovich, who presided over the semifinals in South Dining Hall with Stallman, said the event drew so much more recognition than she thought it was going to.
“All the teams were so excited and running around,” Markovich said. “There were people watching the judging. There was this whole little group. South definitely exceeded my expectations.”
Unlike many dorm events or fundraisers, Stallman said food fights has quite a low overhead cost.
“[Campus Dining] donates all the food,” Stallman said. “So the event is free. The only money we spent on the event was making the advertising materials. So other than that, all the money goes to charity.”
The first-prize winning team from Fisher Hall will take on O’Neill Family Hall, two teams from Flaherty Hall and two wildcard teams in the finals, which take place at 4:30 p.m. in North Dining Hall on Friday.
Donations can be made to Beacon Children’s Hospital by clicking the link on Flaherty Hall’s Instagram bio until Friday at midnight.