Just when I started getting excited and planning my menu for the food challenge on January 22nd, I ended up laying flat on my sofa the previous week and sick as ever with the flu! The last thing on my mind was food, which seems a bit blasphemous, considering I’m a food blogger right? But seriously, all I could think about in between taking all the flu meds I could get my hands on for some sort of relief, was “How am I going to survive doing a food challenge if I’m this sick??” “Am I going to have to drop out, cause I just don’t have any energy to stand or even cook?” A million different things were racing in my head because I really wanted to do this cook-off challenge, yet no relief was in sight! I literally didn’t have any sort of breakthrough healing till Saturday night – 2 days before the challenge!
This year, I have been working on myself. I’m trying to challenge myself, get out there and do things I may be nervous or afraid of doing otherwise. Maybe it’s just January and I’m still in that “resolution” mode, but I have made up my mind to just go out there and do all the things that are important to me, and do them wholeheartedly. I’ve come to the realization that once I stop caring what others think about me and what I want to do in my life, that’s when real success begins.
As a result of my new mindset, guess what happened at “Houshmand’s Hot Sauce Cook-Off Challenge” at the Landmark Inn?? I TOOK HOME 2ND PLACE IN THE CHALLENGE!! Monday, January 22nd, 2018 I actually won something! And the funny thing is that I lost my voice from the previous week of being ill, so I relied on a lot of cheesy smiles and head nodding to make it through that night!
And guess what else? I totally did something out of my comfort zone, and had an absolutely fantastic time doing something I love…cooking!
So, you’re probably wondering what this cookoff challenge was about. Right? Basically, the President of Rowan University has his own brand of hot sauce called “Houshmands Hazardous Hot Sauce.” All proceeds from the hot sauce go directly into a fund to help with Rowan University Scholarships to potential students. As a result of this cookoff, Rowan as able to raise over $18,000 for its students, so its really a great event and awesome cause!
The goal of the cookoff challenge is to create a dish using one of the hot sauce flavors (Nasty, Nastylicious, Nastyvicious) in a creative way where you can taste the heat, yet have a good depth of flavors all together in your chosen dish. There were a lot of creative entries too – Surf & Turf, Enchiladas, Wings, Chili, Soup, Molten Lava Cake (which was incredible by the way!), Tacos, Bacon Wrapped Bison Bites, Noodles, Dips, and mine…Hot & Fiery Butter Chicken!
Everyone had to serve up their dishes in 2 ounce soufflé cups to 5 judges. We also had to provide samples to over 75+ people who attended the event and try to get the “People’s Favorite” vote in the process. (So you could potentially win 2 awards – 1 from the judges, and 1 from the public vote.) My sampler consisted of the Butter Chicken, Onion Raita on the side and a piece of Garlic Naan. I wanted to give people the option to eat the curry with full on heat, or with a hint of yogurt raita to cool off the tongue. Of course, the Garlic Naan just added to the overall flavor of the entire dish when they dipped into both. My goal was to provide well-balance flavors that worked well either alone or paired. I will unashamedly say that I was very proud of how my dish turned out! I taste tested my butter chicken 5 or 6 times while cooking, to make sure it was completely on point and I didn’t feel anything was missing! I had my husband taste test for me as well because I really didn’t want to mess up in any way. LOL!
Once the competition began, the judges walked around taste testing everyone’s dish, asking how we incorporated Houshmand’s Hot Sauce into the dish, as well as what other ingredients we used in our dish. Honestly, it was a bit nerve-wracking because I was trying to read reactions on the judges faces, as they tried my dish, to get some idea of what they were thinking. Some complimented me and walked away, and others just tried my food without any reaction and moved along.
Then the general public at the Landmark were allowed to come into the judging area to taste test everyone’s dishes. This was the most fun part because I got to really see people’s reactions as they tried the different dishes around the room. Some were a little nervous coming to my table, as they had never tried Indian food before. Other people came around several times to get samples from us, which was a great sign! We gave out over 100 samples of our Butter Chicken during the evening.
I also made sure to go try a few of the other competitors dishes to see where I stood, and there was some outstanding food being served up at this challenge, so I know the judges had a difficult job!
Once the challenge was over, one of the Rowan employees started to talk about all the dishes and how the dishes were being judged. At that point, he proceeded to call out the “People’s Vote” winner, which was Derek Adamson – a Rowan Track/Field Coach. He made a Jamaican-style Surf & Turf Dish.
Then the Judges awards were handed out. 1st Place went to Derek Adamson again, with the Surf & Turf. After I heard this, I just felt like I was done for the evening, so I took a step back from my serving station and just leaned up against the wall to enjoy the moment. BUT THEN – They called my name for 2nd place!! I literally looked around the room as if I was looking for a “Chetna Macwan” myself cause I just couldn’t believe it! I NEVER win anything – lol!!! I walked to the front of the crown with my hands over my mouth and still looking around in amazement! It was when I saw President Houshmand in the front with my plaque that I realized this was a real win! Haha!
It was just such a wonderful and awesome experience to have been in something like this. I LOVE to cook and just to have my food recognized was such an honor and totally put me on “cloud 9” the rest of the evening!
By the way, 3rd Place went to a fellow cook, Rebecca Bradshaw, who made Molten Lava Cake with a homemade orange/mango ice-cream on the side. (One of my personal favorites of the night.)
This was my first time participating in a food challenge, and now I know it will certainly not be my last! I would love to be a part of other food challenges in the future because it gives me the opportunity to expose my culture, and Indian food to everyone around me. Plus, it will continue to force me to stay out of my comfort zone, and continue my goal of challenging myself and being proud of my food, my hard work and for once, myself.
I teach Indian cooking classes as well and one thing I have learned from this challenge is that I will keep on cooking, keep teaching, keep doing what I love and continue to share my passion with anyone that will listen! :O)
For additional pictures and articles about the food challenge, please visit the links below:
For any information on attending our Indian Cooking Classes (Spice Culture Cooking), you can find details on FB (SPICE CULTURE COOKING), feel free to comment below OR email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maybe I’ll see you in our February class!