Cooking competitions are all the rage on television and University of Dayton Bookstore has brought the trend to campus with their annual Iron Chef Dayton: Ramen Noodle Cook-Off!
“When we began, cooking shows were very popular and the idea of using a low-budget ingredient like Ramen noodles was a creative way for us to have college students identify with it,” explained Julie Banks, retail operations manager.
“We wanted to do something different that didn’t necessarily tie back to the bookstore,” she said. “This event isn’t about getting students to buy; it’s really about the interaction.”
The first event was such a success that the store has continued it ever since. Now in its fifth year, it’s grown to become a favorite among students.
The premise of the cook-off is simple: to create the best original dish using Ramen noodles. Students, faculty and staff are all invited to participate either as individuals or as a team and must construct their meals in 25 minutes or less. They simply have to complete an entry form, detailing their contact information, availability and the ingredients necessary for their dish to join the fun.
“We provide them with one package of Ramen noodles as well as the ingredients they need to prepare their dish,” said Banks. “They’re also allowed to bring in up to $2.00 worth of personal ingredients on the day of the competition.”
Hosted in the lobby of a dorm that’s connected to the store, the cook-off begins around noon with the final round concluding in the early evening. Because of its location, it typically draws quite a crowd.
“Everyone loves it,” she added. “Each participant usually brings a fan club with them to cheer them on and we have passerby’s stop to see what it’s all about, too. It’s always fun and entertaining; we’ve received a lot of positive feedback.”
“I’m always impressed at what students come up with,” she described. “We’ve seen Ramen lasagna, lots of elaborate Asian-style dishes, and even had students use the dry noodles as a topping for a Thai salad!”
As participants prepare their dishes, an MC keeps the crowd engaged by playing music, interviewing participants, and updating the audience on their progress. Once the dishes are completed, a panel of local ‘celebrities’ are present to judge each entry, based on a variety of criteria. The winner and runner-up are then announced and awarded their prizes.
Once the entries have been judged, the store divides them up and lets the audience sample each one.
“Students love free food, so they’re always excited for that part,” she added. “We also distribute recipe cards of each dish to the audience and have Ramen Noodle cookbooks that we sell at the store on hand for those that are interested.”
With this year’s cook-off just a few days away, Banks and her staff are already anticipating another successful event.
“We’re hoping for a high level of participation, as always,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what they come up with!”
Interested in hosting a similar event? Check out our Marketing Plan with instructions on how to easily host a Faculty and Staff Top Chef competition!