Colgate hosts a music-themed chefs' competition between local colleges.

In the music-themed Chefs’ Fare competition hosted by Colgate, Ithaca College served up French food to accompany their classical music theme. Photo by Janna Minehart ’13

What do a smoke machine, coq au vin, and the Beach Boys have in common? They were all features of the first round of the music-themed Chefs’ Fare competition, a program run by Sodexo Marketing that pits chefs from local colleges against each other in a cooking throw-down.

On Tuesday night, staff chefs from Colgate welcomed chefs from Le Moyne College and Ithaca College to Frank Dining Hall. It’s the first year that Colgate has competed in the district competition, and chefs were invited to show off their eclectic menus and vie for votes.

“The students are the judges,” explained Dan Fravil, resident dining manager of Frank Dining Hall. “Each station has a ballot box and ballots, students pick their favorite dish or series of dishes, and then drop the ballots in the box.”

Student diners did just that. Lines at each station grew and shrank as word spread about what were the best-tasting dishes. Some of the most popular samples that flew off the serving platters included Colgate’s artichoke soup and Le Moyne’s Cajun chocolate mousse.

The randomly assigned musical themes — Classical (Ithaca), Heavy Metal (Le Moyne), and Classic Rock (Colgate) — tested the chefs’ ability to embody their genres and creatively translate them into their menus.

Channeling a California vibe, Colgate chefs dressed in Hawaiian shirts and served up bayside fare. Across the way, Le Moyne chefs wore Metallica and Guns N’ Roses T-shirts, employed a smoke machine, and played heavy metal music, adding ambience to their hot and spicy menu. A refined Ithaca served coq au vin and crème puffs in keeping to their classical theme.

“Next, our chefs will travel to Le Moyne and then Ithaca to do the same kind of competition there [in the upcoming months],” said Fravil. “It’s the best two-out-of-three and then we move on to the next series of competition with other schools out of our district — like SUNY Oneonta and Binghamton University.”

As the event came to a close, the winning team of Le Moyne chefs removed their rock star wigs and folded up the life-size cutout of KISS, but the air of friendly competition and good humor remained tangible.

“The students were a lot of fun,” said Jim Ruoff, general manager of Le Moyne’s dining services. “They enjoyed it, and that is what makes it worthwhile.”

Damian Price, Colgate’s executive chef, chimed in: “It’s a great way to get our staff out front, get the students together, and get involved with other colleges.”