Saturday, October 10, 2009

October 5, 2009: Annual lab culinary competition

Anticipation and rivalry has been steadily building in my workplace for a solid month or two, in the lead-up to the biggest social event on our calendar - the annual lab culinary competition. This is thought to be the sixth such event, held in honour of lab member Jane, as close to her birthday as is feasible. The competition seems to get bigger and better every year; new people arrive in the lab and contribute new styles and flavours, while departed lab members frequently come back especially for the occasion.

With my past blogged reports and even a cookbook compiling the 2008 entries, new lab members were duly alerted to what was expected of them. This year theirs were among the most exciting entries, with some entrants presenting novel and delicious dishes from their home countries, and one newbie even snagging the grand prize.

Our trio of judges comprise one vegetarian, one gluten-free girl and one raging omnivore. This provides an excellent incentive to prepare foods that meet the range of dietary requirements amongst the lab. In this spirit of inclusiveness, this is the one time each year that you'll spy pictures of meat on this blog.

The only unfortunate aspect of this competition's growth is that it gets harder and harder to taste, photograph and jot down the name of every entry, so my commentary below will be brief. However a 2009 edition of the competition cookbook is in the works, so if you see anything that you absolutely, positively must know how to make, I can probably help you out in a month or so.

These tomatoes rest on haloumi pieces, are stuffed with risotto and came with a mustard dressing. They were prepared by our horrendously competitive leader, who won a Lifetime Achievement Award on the day. They were probably my favourite dish of the competition, but I'm not letting him know that!

These won a prize for the best meatifying of a vegetable.

Tamales! Stuffed with spicy black beans as well as steamed cornmeal.

This salad won the Taste of Spring Award.

You might recognise my tropical 'slaw, this time with red cabbage. It was the Best Twist On A Classic prize winner.

This amazing Thai rose petal salad won the "We Really Like This Salad" prize.

The White Fungus Salad won an award for the Best Use of Last Year's Prize.

The Pickle Award winner.

Winner of the "You Don't Win Friends With Salad" Award.

Winner of the award category "We Don't Know What This Is, But We're Impressed".

A Spanish tortilla.

My Mapo Tofu, prize winner for the Best Vegetarianising of Meat.

Moroccan eggplant salad.

A Persian-style mushroom soup.

Winner of the "There's something in the water" prize. Funnily enough, this name of this alcoholic punch translates as Water of Valencia.

These gorgeous strawberries won a prize for Best Presentation.

Rocky road containing, among other things, raspberry liquorice! I fully endorse this innovation.

Vanilla-honeycomb ice-cream. It won the "No you can't have mine, get your own" prize and also the GRAND PRIZE.

A coconut pie topped with fresh pineapple and mint won a prize for the Use of the Most Coconut.

I'm proud to tell you that my raw lime pie won the Jane's Choice Award.

The delcious cakes above and below jointly won the Imitation Award.


You can also check out reports on the 2006 and 2008 culinary competitions.


  1. My goodness! The spirit of conviviality in your lab makes me so jealous! How wonderful. I work at Melbourne Uni, and I can tell you that the most collaborative my department ever gets is synchronising what time we depart to get a coffee. I am totally inspired by this cook-off you had here. Maybe I can do something similar... oh how fun it would be! :-)

  2. Wow - this is impressive - makes one wonder how much work could get done after testing the goods - I feel like lying down on the couch and groaning from just looking at it :-)

    btw - nice to see you tonight at Readings!

  3. And here is my annual comment wondering when your lab ever gets any work done ;). Looks fab, and I too am jealous of your lovely working environment.

  4. wtf ! cheese & meat ? This was on a vegan blogroll .. are they really convincing mock/faux ?

  5. yumm...,can I work for you Cindy? I'll mop the floor, clean the toilet bowls, scrub the lab sinks.. just let me have those yummy foods :)

  6. O nice photos... and I just love those chocolate strawberries. Anyway, while I’m here…

    I’m a food science student conducting a research survey on the purchase of specialty food products. Feel free to help me fill out a short 8 min research survey. It’s completely voluntary.



  7. Hi Anna! I do feel lucky to work in such a convivial and food-friendly environment. :-)

    Johanna, I can confirm your suspicions that very little work was achieved in the afternoon - most of us just wanted a nap!

    Lisa, we get a bit done most other days of the year but this is very nearly a local public holiday. :-)

    Wtf indeed, Anonymous! If you'd bothered to read this blog's header or the text at the top of this post you'd know the answer to both your questions.

    Sadly, Iheartbroccoli, I'm in no position to offer jobs. ;-) Actually you might have more luck offering your cooking skills rather than your mopping abilities!

    Thanks Foodieguy. I'll give your survey a go.

  8. yep, my mistake there , sometimes on these blogs i skip to the pictures first and if im interested in the pictures I read about the recipe/restaurant etc..
    I think I get it now thanks to your header, a blog run by vegetarians but not a "vegetarian blog" per se

  9. The annual lab culinary comp looks bigger and better each year. Some of the items look really out there. People are going to great lengths to win the coveted prizes.

    Were there no prizes this year like the previous years?

  10. There were prizes, Thanh! Some lovely fresh produce, homemade relish, and a few bizarre kitchen gadgets. :-)