Chopped virtual cooking challenge – Fall Quarter 2020

Watch the Zoom recording of Chopped.

Thank you to the 60+ UCI faculty, staff, and students who created dishes for Chopped, a virtual cooking challenge! Chopped live judging occurred on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 (Week 7).  To qualify for judging, all submissions had to include 4 key ingredients:

  1. scallions (green onions)
  2. cinnamon
  3. tofu
  4. pasta

The criteria that the Chopped judges used to evaluate the dishes were:

  • Presentation
  • Creativity
  • Perceived taste

Judges selected one winner for each of the three participant groups (faculty, staff, and students).  Chopped winners each received a $75 Amazon gift card.

Meet our Chopped winners:

Student group: Salla Kim
Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering

Pasta in a dairy-free tofu “ricotta”-based sauce

Description of creation:

* Cinnamon-paprika roasted sweet potatoes

* Pasta in a dairy free tofu “ricotta”-based sauce (made by blending tofu with other ingredients, seasonings, and spices)

* Scallions marinated in a coconut aminos-based marinade

* topped with a fried egg, flaked salt, sesame seeds, and more scallions

Staff group: Adeeva Myers
Counselor/Coordinator, Gateway Initiatives, Student Success Initiatives, Division of Undergraduate Education

Description of creation:

Cinnamon Spiced Tofu Tacos

I incorporated the cinnamon into a spice blend I created with cumin, chili powder, paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, and seasoning salt. I added maple syrup, soy sauce, and olive oil to the spice blend to create a paste to marinate/season the crumbled tofu. The taste is somewhat reminiscent of a mole sauce if you can imagine a dry rub mole. I then baked the tofu in the oven until it took on a meat-like consistency. For toppings, I added fresh diced tomato, cilantro, green onion, avocado, and a cilantro-lime sauce. The tacos are in pan-fried corn tortillas!

Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad

I cooked bow tie pasta until it was al dente. I roasted the corn on a cast-iron skillet to give it the char of roasted street corn. I added chopped green onion, cilantro, chopped fresh jalapeno, black beans, roasted corn, and the pasta to a mixing bowl. I then made a sriracha mayo dressing with sriracha, mayo, fresh lime juice, paprika, garlic powder, and salt. I tossed all the ingredients with the sriracha mayo and then served and topped with extra lime, green onion, and crumbled cotija cheese!

As a native of Los Angeles, I absolutely love tacos and hope you can imagine the amazing taste of this unique take on a traditional Mexican dish.

Faculty group: Dr. Jonathan Alexandar
Chancellor’s Professor of English and Informatics, School of Humanities
Faculty, UCI Connected Learning Lab
Associate Dean, Division of Undergraduate Education
Researcher, The Wayfinding Project
Core Faculty, Program in Culture & Theory

Cinnamon-dusted tofu in peanut sauce with scallions served over edamame pasta. 

Jonathan Alexander, executive chef at Edith’s on Wharton in University Hills, is delighted to share this plant-powered protein-packed dish that combines the savory richness of peanuts and ginger with a dash of cinnamon sweetness. Served over edamame noodles and with a side of chili paste, this dish is perfect for those who want a full-bodied Asian taste without a heavy carb load.


  • Were you at Chopped?  Please take a moment to complete an evaluation of this event.
  • Kudos to Dr. Sei Lee, ISEP Counselor/Coordinator, for creating and hosting Chopped. “I appreciate the community we created tonight over food.” – Sei
  • Thanks also to our three Chopped judges: Dr. Yong Chen (Professor of History), Chef Jessica VanRoo (Assistant Director, Culinary Recreation & Experiential Programs, and Stefani Tran (Program Coordinator, International Peer Group Scholars Program)


Chopped was hosted by International Student Excellence Programs (ISEP) and UCI Illuminations.