NEIU Top Chef

Gary Soriano, Arts and Life Editor


Photos by Janean Watkins
NEIU faculty served up a surprising array of tasty dishes and desserts

Photos by Janean Watkins

Photos by Janean Watkins

The winner of Northeastern Illinois University’s (NEIU) 6th Annual Top Chef Competition is Social Work Program Assistant Professor Francisco X. Gaytan, Ph.D. “Who- ever possesses the golden spatula shall be top chef of NEIU,” co-host Dr. Suzanne G. Benson of the Educational Leadership and Development Office said. Gaytan, a four- year faculty member, will remain in possession of the golden spatula until next year when it will be passed over. When asked how he felt about being this year’s winner, Gaytan responded, “Inspired.”
Boasting quality over quantity, Gaytan, one of four professors/ contestants, offered jerk-squared empanadas with mango salsa which pleased the palates of the three NEIU student judges, convincing them that Gaytan would win, hands down. Slim Jims provided an original touch, contributing to the uniqueness Gaytan and his assistant, Psychology Undergraduate Danilo Chacon hoped to convey in the dish.
“I expected to win only after I saw that one of the other teams made bell peppers stuffed with Spam and pasta,” Gaytan jokingly said. Al- though the Spam dish, created by Sociology Professor Dr. Brooke Johnson caught the attention of the crowd, her efforts were not enough to win. However, Johnson’s dessert offering was welcoming and creative, and caught the attention of one particular judge, Northeastern Programming Board’s Student Coordinator, Monica Ochoa. The dessert was a pound cake stuffed with mango and topped with whip cream and bananas. The top was raspberry glazed and had NEIU written in the glaze, accompanied by a heart.
The two other contestants, Art Department Professor Dr. Mark McKernin and Professor of Business Law Dr. Stijepko “Step” Tokic also shared their cooking expertise. Gaytan’s dish recipe is featured below.

Top Chef Winning Recipe:
Empanadas olive oil 1 yellow onion, diced finely 1 red bell pepper, chopped 1lb. ground beef 4 Slim Jims/beef jerky (about 4 ounces), finely minced preferably in a food processor 6 flour tortillas Salt to taste Pepper to taste 1 tsp. jerk seasoning (use more for spicier empanadas)

Saute the onions and bell pepper in about a tablespoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes on medium heat until onions become translucent. Raise the heat to medium- high and add ground beef and beef jerky, cooking until beef is browned. Place cooked meat mixture on one half of the flour tortillas. Wet edges of the tortillas, folding over the empty half and crimping it shut over the meat. Place filled tortilla on heated pan with 2 tablespoons of oil and cook until lightly browned. Flip and brown second side.

Mango Salsa 1 mango, peeled and pitted and cut into 1/4 inch cubes. 1/2 finely chopped medium red onion Juice of 1 lime Juice of 1/2 orange 1/2 diced tomato 1 finely minced jalapeño pepper, seeds and all Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and spoon over the cooked empanadas. Enjoy.