Jamaican-style cook-off begins week of Mesa homecoming festivities

“What kind of Jamaican herbs are you cooking with?” asked Wayne Smith at the “Iron Chef”-style cooking competition that took place in the Mesa State College quad Monday morning.

“Oh, we be cookin’ with Jamaican herbs,” one competitor replied jokingly.

“You all better come back between classes because this stuff sounds like it’s going to be good,” Smith said.

The annual cooking competition is part of Mesa State’s homecoming festivities this week. The theme this year is “Ja’Makin’ me Mav Crazy.”

Three teams from the Colorado Culinary Academy were given a box of food, three surprise ingredients, and an hour to create authentic Jamaican cuisine that not only tasted great but had good presentation.

The secret ingredients were pork sirloin, plantains and fresh coconut.

“This really puts to the challenge these students’ ability to cook, add presentation and of course, ‘How does it taste?’ ” said Dana Nunn, director of media relations for the college.

Students stopped by between classes to watch the student chefs chop, fry and crack open coconuts.

The winning plate was a blackened pork spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger served on a bed of cornmeal coo-coo and topped with a fresh salsa. It was created by the “RAW-stafarians,” Tony Ridgway of San Jose, Calif., and Andrew Fitzgerald of Broomfield.

Both are first-year culinary students at Mesa State.

“The judges said it was really close, but that salsa was the real kicker,” Nunn said. “It had sauteed onions and garlic, but the secret was a couple of habanero peppers.”

There are daily activities planned for the students as part of this year’s homecoming celebration. Many of the activities are rooted in tradition, such as the football game, parade and tailgate party, while others were selected by the homecoming committee because of their modern fun factor. Some of those include a foam party Tuesday night and an oxygen bar later this week.

“There is a lot of coordination and our planning starts in the spring semester,” said Breanne Baptista, director of student life. She explained that they look at what other schools are doing to see what Mesa State students would enjoy and also what fits into the budget.

Alumni are also a key part of the celebration, Nunn said. Many alumni visit their alma mater this time of year, and this year alumni will be surprised by the new construction on campus.

“Homecoming is for students, but also for alumni,” Nunn said. “It shows school spirit and is a crucial part of campus life.”

A tailgate party will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday at Stocker Stadium. There will be a free barbecue, fun activities and live music performed by the Tropical Coyotes. Kickoff for the big game against Colorado School of Mines is at 7.

“We hope the community comes out to support Mesa State and have some fun with us,” Baptista said.


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