FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Halfway through Fairfield University’s first-ever student meatball contest, Jamison Wellman looked down at the batch of half-cooked orbs sizzling in the pan at his team’s station.
“Maybe we should have done a dry run,” he said, wincing. “I don’t know about this.”
But in the end, his Team Kostka — named for a dorm on campus — reigned supreme in the battle Friday. They were named the winners by none other than New York City restaurateur and longtime “Iron Chef” judge Donatella Arpaia, a 1993 Fairfield alumna.
Four squads squared off at the contest held in the Barone Campus Center, including teammates from the student newspaper, the Fairfield University Student Association (FUSA) and the rugby team, which showed up wearing form-fitting shorts and tank tops.
Each team had to prep their ingredients and create 12 meatballs, which were then baked by campus chefs for 20 minutes before each team presented to the judges. In addition to Arpaia, the panel included FUSA President Anif McDonald and television personality and Southport resident Sissy Biggers.
“First up, we started with meat,” Team Rugby’s Hunter “Sunshine” Boesch told the judges authoritatively.
Arpaia asked whether they used fresh bread in the mix and the team said, not only was it fresh, but it was also from a recipe created by a teammate’s “nonna.”
“You so did not,” Arpaia shot back, laughing. “I saw Progresso (bread crumbs) over there!”
Team Mirror’s Angela Sammarone of Lyndhurst, N.J., managing editor of the newspaper, said she hoped the judges liked a family meatball recipe passed down for generations. “Hopefully, I’m making my mom proud,” she said.
Team FUSA said they turned instead to Food Network’s website, choosing one dubbed “Excellent Meatball Recipe.”
Wellman said his team used beef, eggs and a few other tried-and-true ingredients.
“You know, the usual culprits,” he said. “We didn’t make them too crazy with flavor.”
Arpaia asked where the team found the loud Hawaiian shirts they donned for the battle.
“Goodwill,” Wellman said.
Whether it was their shirts or their straightforward approach, each team member took home a trophy and a $150 gift card to the Fairfield University Bookstore. Arpaia said she appreciated the team’s use of peppers and onions and that they took the time to shape their meatballs well.
“You will not be getting a fashion award,” she told them. “That’s for sure.”
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