Head Chef Finding Ways to Engage Students and Staff in New Dining Fun!

Posted Mar 31, 2023

By: Catie Duzzny ’21, MBA’23

Knives Out

It was Knives Out for the chefs at the Cardinal’s Nest, Otterbein’s main dining hall. Executive Chef James Akers, with Parkhurst Dining, challenged his sous chefs to a cook-off with one goal: to battle Akers in an epic showdown of Otterbein’s finest chefs.

Okay, two goals: to impress the student diners, too.

From March 20-27, Akers and his four sous chefs — Teekah Cooper, Jacquoi Light, Edwin Patrick, and Jeremy Bartlett — put together a “Knives Out: March Madness Chef Cook-Off.” The four sous chefs competed over the week to determine who would battle Akers in the final round.

“This was something fun for the students that they don’t get to see all the time. It also engaged my staff to be able to come out and have fun with the students, who can now put a face to the food that they try all the time,” said Akers.

There were three rounds before a final chef was chosen to compete against Akers. Each round had a different theme and included mystery baskets, budget battle, and the finale was the battle of the burgers.

Executive Chef James Akers
Executive Chef James Akers

During each meal, the chefs would prep some of the meal in front of the students so they could see what goes into prepping these meals. Those meals would be served for dinner that evening to the students.

The students decided who would move onto the next round. At dinner service for each round, the students voted for which meal they liked better, and the winning sous chef would move on to the next round.

The students who voted also had the chance to win a catered dinner for up to 10 people prepared by Akers.

The final round was down to sous chef Jeremy Bartlett and Akers. For the epic Battle of the Burger, Barlett made a “Bubbs Burger” that featured beef, bacon, mushrooms, pepperjack cheese sauce, jalapenos and banana peppers. Akers created a “Chorizo Burger” that featured chorizo, beef, queso fresco, guacamole, a fried egg, tortilla strips, and a poblano garlic crema.

In the end, Executive Chef Akers won the final round!

“It was awesome to see our staff and students interacting more and to get positive feedback from the students was pretty good for morale,” said Akers.

Chef Akers hopes to continue doing exciting, fun, and engaging activities or events for the students and his staff.

In the past weeks they have done themed weeks such as Harry Potter, Marvel, Star Wars, and Stranger Things. More themed weeks are coming stay tuned and follow @otterbein_dining on Instagram!