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Top Chef and ALAS celebrate Latino Heritage Month

Top Chef Loyola and the Association of Latin American Students (ALAS) co-hosted the first Top Chef Loyola competition of the school year on Thursday, Oct. 1. The purpose of the competition was to present dishes inspired by Latino culture as part of the Latino Heritage Month celebration.               

The dishes submitted for the competition included cactus salad from Caesar Arreola, a junior; flan from Top Chef President Max Neblina, a senior; and arroz con leche from Top Chef leader Luke McKenna, a junior.

Members of the faculty participated in the competition. Submissions included shrimp tacos provided by Event Operations Director Mr. Tom Peck ’85,; and a tortilla casserole from Administrative Assistant for Board Affairs Mrs. Patricia Randazzo.

The competition’s judges voted for Best Overall Dish and Most Creative Dish.

Judge sophomore Alberto Ruiz said, “Everyone’s food was delicious and perfectly reflected the theme of the event. It demonstrated some of the many dishes of Latino culture.”

Mr. Peck’s dish won 1st place for Most Creative Dish. Arts Department Chairwoman Mrs. Cristina Sagesse, a judge, said, “I chose Coach Peck, because he created a taco bar and cooked the marinated shrimp right at the table.”

Mr. Peck said, “Not only was winning first place for Most Creative Dish rewarding, but I also really enjoyed making the shrimp tacos. I wanted to cook the shrimp fresh at the table to maximize flavor and to provide the wow factor when the students saw the shrimp.”

Mrs. Randazzo’s tortilla casserole won 2nd place for Most Creative Dish. Arreola’s cactus salad won 3rd place in the creativity category. Moderator of Top Chef Loyola and co-moderator for ALAS Mr. Thomas Cendejas said, “Caesar Arreola’s cactus salad was a unique dish, which revealed to many people that cactus is a Latino food.”

Judges also ranked the dishes by their overall taste and appearance.

The winner for Best Overall Dish was Neblina’s flan. Neblina said, “My family friend always makes me flan when she visits, because she knows it is my favorite dessert. I worked long and hard to make it, and I never gave up. This value of working hard comes from my Latino culture and I am proud that I have it in me.”

McKenna’s arroz con leche won 2nd place for Best Overall Dish. McKenna said, “Although I am not Latino, I made coconut rice pudding, a traditional Mexican dish, because I found the competition an interesting way to explore the different elements of Latin American cuisine and culture.”

Mrs. Randazzo’s tortilla casserole won 3rd place for for Best Overall Dish.

Neblina said, “With big improvements in participation from last year and a good number of competitors of both students and faculty, the event was an overall success.”


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