CAT-style Master Chef Challenge - Healthy Cooking on a Student Budget

On February 3rd, Centre for Arts and Technology students took to the Fredericton Crowne Plaza Kitchen to for the chance to be named CAT’s Master Chef! The students were challenged to create a health meal on a student budget – under $10 for two servings (or under $7 for one serving.)

Their creations were assessed by a panel of 4 judges, including a qualified nutritionist and an executive chef, on presentation, flavor, overall nutritional value, creativity and cost.

The judges included Brent Conlin – Executive Chef Crowne Plaza Lord Beaverbrook Hotel, David Kelly – Deputy Mayor Fredericton, Roxana Suchorolski – Dietician, and Janice Fanjoy – a CAT staff member.

Interior Design student Ben Irvine took home the win of the day, with the Chicken Cheese Ball and Stirfry dish he made for just $7.95.

Program Advisor Ryan Howard dreamt up the challenge for the school. He decided he wanted to show students that it is possible to eat well on a student budget. “Students live on a tight budget when they go to school, regardless of where they go," he said. "Sometimes they don't know how to create a nutritious meal.” Ryan like to remind students that they can take advantage of student discounts, which are offered at a number of places around the city.

Both the judges and students agreed - creating healthy yet tasty meals on a small budget is possible. It's just takes a little planning and creativity!

The Daily Gleaner wrote the following article about the event:

Students Cook Up a Storm on a Limited Budget

Local Chefs Impressed with Dishes

Tara Chislett | The Daily Gleaner

Brent Conlin didn't think he'd enjoy all seven dishes prepared by students for the Centre for Arts & Technology Master Chef Competition on Friday morning. "I expected there would be at least one where I would be like, 'God, I'm not eating this,'" the executive chef for the Crowne Plaza said. "But everything was really edible." There wasn't any Kraft Dinner to be found on the menu as seven students from the school spent the morning in the hotel kitchen. The goal of the competition was simple - create a nutritious meal, enough for one or two people. But there was a twist: a meal for an individual could cost no more than $7 while a meal for two was given a $10 limit.

Ryan Howard, a program adviser at the school, said the idea behind the competition was to show students-it's possible to eat well even if you have a small budget to work with. "Students live on a tight budget when they go to school, regardless of where they go," he said. "Sometimes they don't know how to create a nutritious meal. The whole concept is on a certain budget, what do you cook? Where do you shop? You go to the Bulk Barn for your spices or Victory Meat Market for this. As students, you always get the discounts with your student ID.” Howard said the school worked with the Crowne Plaza to organize the competition. Through Conlin, students were given access to the hotel's kitchen to prepare their food and judging took place in the Miramichi Room.

Ben Irvine, an interior design student who spent $7.95 to create his chicken cheese ball and stir-fry dish which ended up taking first prize, said he wasn't surprised he was able to create a great meal with a small budget he said he does it on a regular basis when he has to cook for his kids. "It pays when you're a father and you have to cook healthy meals for your kids," he said. "But I'm a student and I'm on a tight budget."

Ashley Sheard, a graphic design student who prepared a plate with fruit, low sodium, whole grain toast and eggs scrambled with garlic and swiss cheese, said working in such a professional kitchen was a bit challenging but she was impressed with the variety of dishes she and her classmates prepared. "It was kind of nerve-wracking to come meet the chef and work in his kitchen but it was a lot of fun," she said. "There were so many different dishes and everyone stayed within budget so it just shows it is pretty feasible to eat well."

Dishes were judged on presentation, flavour, nutritional value, creativity and cost. A four-person judging panel critiqued and scored the dishes to determine who would walk away with the $50 Sobeys gift card.

Conlin said he was impressed with the dishes the students created. "There was a lot of thought that went into it," he said. "I was really impressed with Ben's dish and also with the goulash. There was a lot of method that went into those dishes especially." Conlin said having so many additional people in the kitchen was a challenge but he was impressed with how the students handled themselves. "They're good kids," he said "They were prepared and we had some fun with it. He said he wasn't surprised the students were able to come up with good meals on a budget because in many cases, the key to making good meals is being creative and working with what you have. "I do this for a living but I think $10 is pretty affordable and doable," he said.

Howard said he was pleased with the response to the challenge from the students. "For a first-time shot, I'm deeming this to be very good," he said.