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David Greenwald prepares a savory pasta dish as part of the "Chef Challenge" held in the Global Fusion station of Houston Market. [Dara Nikolova/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

Now, students won't have to travel to Japan to watch the ultimate battle of culinary skills.

Penn's first annual "Chef Challenge," fashioned after the Iron Chef television show,was held yesterday during lunch at Houston Market.

Students watched as two chefs -- David Greenwald, district regional chef for Aramark, and Rodney Stockett of Houston Market -- created five dishes in one hour using the secret ingredient: prawns.

Events like the Chef Challenge are part of Dining Services' attempt to excite students about dining since partnering with food, facility and management support company Aramark last year.

Aramark, a Philadelphia-based corporation that handles dining for universities nationwide, has held similar events at 18 other universities in the region this year -- and plans to make this an annual event at Penn, according to Dining Services Marketing Manager Maeve Duska.

"These are the kinds of things we'd like to do next year in 1920 Commons after we remodel," Dining Services Contract and Relationship Manager Laurie Cousart said.

The space in Houston Market may have proved a slightly crowded workspace for the two chefs as they furiously labored over skillets and cutting boards -- but despite the difficulty, they cooked on.

"They seem pretty intense and into it," College senior Ronald Lee said as he watched the competition unfold yesterday.

When the dust had settled and the panel of judges had completed sampling 10 dishes -- five from each chef -- there was one winner: Houston Market's own Stockett took the match by nine points.

"It was amazing," Stockett said of the experience. He added that though he had ideas in mind, "It's all technique. If you see something, you have to react quickly."

Including a shrimp and lobster bisque, wasabi mashed potatoes and a spring roll filled with fois gras and truffles, Stockett's dishes won the judges over.

Stockett said he was pleased. "I'm not gonna lie," he said.

And though a few diners seeking lunch in Houston Market were dismayed to find that the Global Fusion station was not serving food, many of those who stopped to watch the show were excited.

"It's more done up than I thought it would be," College sophomore Kaity Jimenez said. "I wish I could have been a judge."

However, students will have an opportunity to sample the food for themselves -- each of Stockett's winning entrees will be featured as a special over the course of the next week as specials at the Global Fusion station in Houston Market.

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