Last week I wrote to you about New Haven’s many arts and humanities organizations. Now, I have art of the edible variety on my mind: tomorrow evening is the seventh “Final Cut” cooking competition at Yale, when teams of undergraduates from all twelve residential colleges will convene at Commons to vie for gustatory glory. Although my skills in the kitchen are limited to little more than making a mean guacamole, I do like to think I excel at appreciating others’ talents in this sphere!
So I was pleased to be asked to return as one of the judges of this year’s contest alongside Dean Jonathan Holloway, Yale Dining Director Rafi Taherian, Master Chef Ron DeSantis, and the acclaimed restaurateur Ming Tsai, who graduated from Yale College in 1986. Together we’ll feast on twelve different menus devised from a market basket of ingredients that each team will receive. Competitors will have an hour to dream up—and whip up—creative and taste bud-tempting dishes.
This has me thinking about the many ways in which the culinary spirit is embraced across our campus. Anyone who has sampled the output of the Yale Sustainable Food Program’s wood-fired pizza oven knows that Sally’s and Pepe’s have stiff competition from the program’s student interns! Some of the most notable ventures to come out of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute—grilled cheese franchises that are the brainchild of a 2010 School of Management graduate; an inventive salad bar conceived by two 2012 graduates of Yale College (and now expanded to a second New Haven location); a fresh approach to Chinese takeout soon to be launched by four of last summer’s YEI fellows—have been food-based. And our fascination with fare isn’t restricted to the kitchen: from Paul Freedman’s The History of Food to Maria Trumpler’s Women, Food, and Culture to courses, programs, and research in public health, environmental studies, and beyond, our faculty and students are examining the cultural, political, physical, and historical impacts of what and how we eat.