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Cultural Face-off: French vs. Italian Cuisine

The French and Italian clubs hold their annual cook-off to see who will be crowned champion of the kitchen.

Every year, the French and Italian clubs host a friendly competition to determine which culture makes the best cuisine. In preparation, students spend hours cooking main courses, appetizers, or desserts, all in hopes of wow-ing the guest judges and claiming victory for their country. This year, students didn’t disappoint—each participant brought colorful, well-executed dishes to the judges’ plates.

Annie Spach holding focaccia barese to present to the judges.
Photo by Simon Bellini

Starting off with appetizers, the chefs gave a brief run-through of the creation process. Many Italian students incorporated ricotta cheese in their dishes, with one group even going the extra mile to make it from scratch. This worked out in their favor as one judge said eating their ricotta and roasted tomato focaccia felt like “floating on a cloud of deliciousness over the Po valley.”

The Italians kickstarted the main courses by presenting the judges with fresh polenta, a porridge-like, cornmeal dish popular in northern Italy. The French followed with a sample of dauphinoise (scalloped potatoes smothered in cream) and a quiche.

Finally, the dessert category rolled around, and a myriad of pastries and cakes came face-to-face. Though the tables overflowed with macarons, crème brûlées, and pastries, each side chose one dessert to present to the judges. The French started off, bringing the judges an orange and ricotta pastry; as the judges ate, the chefs explained the complexity of the dish, saying that the recipe had taken five hours to complete. The Italians then presented a six-layer Italian sponge cake with hazelnut filling and hand-modeled chocolate flower toppings. Once the judges took the last bites of cake, the competition came to a close.

As the judges tallied the points in each category, students whispered amongst each other in French and Italian, anxious to hear who would be crowned winner of the cook-off. Leading by one point, the French took appetizers, but the Italian quickly retaliated with the lead in desserts, winning by only a half point. It came down to main courses—would the polenta or dauphinoise take the lead? Though the score was close, the French ultimately came away with the victory, winning the cook-off for the third consecutive year.

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