Does spinach, oyster mushrooms, and feta raviolis with a red pepper coulis sound better than your normal frozen pizza with a side of Kraft Dinner? Of course it does—but those types of dinners only exist for most students in the realm of parent visits and graduation dinners. For Clovis Rigout, however, these meals are much more common.
Rigout—along with two other McGill students, Priscilla Wang and Taegu Frank Kim—finished in second place at the inaugural inter-university Iron Chef competition on Feb. 8. Teams from the University of Massachusetts, the University of Toronto, and the University of Ottawa gathered at McGill to show off their culinary expertise.
Born just outside of Paris, France, where he lived until he was 10 years old, Rigout cites his French background and his childhood experiences there as major influences on his culinary preferences.
“I grew up in a family where we always cooked nicely,” he said. “Cooking just reminded me of some childhood memories—watching my mom cook food, or trying to finish off the chocolate batter when we made brownies.”
After living in the United States for six years, Rigout moved to Montreal and finished high school in Outremont. Rigout said Montreal is where he really started to enjoy cooking for himself.
“Living in my studio, that’s where I really picked it up,” he said. “You’re forced to do it every day, and that’s where I really appreciated it.”
Rigout has been able to sharpen his skills in the kitchen this year while living in Varcity515, where students cook for themselves rather than relying on meal plans. He enjoys the residence experience because it has allowed him to meet others in the McGill community and share his experience with people of different backgrounds. The cooking competition, which started as an inter-residence competition, combined both of these aspects of residence life.
“What I liked about the Iron Chef [was that] I was able to get involved with the school, represent McGill, and do something I really enjoy,” Rigout said.
Fans of Iron Chef and Chopped know these competitions are not for your average chef. The teams were given five “secret ingredients”—all either organic or fair trade—which had to be incorporated into their dishes.
“They gave us tons of ingredients to choose from and then said you have to use [other] secret ingredients,” he said. “Then it was just a quick brainstorm about what to do.”
The McGill team earned their second-place finish with the above mentioned raviolis and a pork dish. Rigout noted that the team’s diverse culinary expertise—his preference for French cuisine and his teammate’s interest in Asian-style cooking—played a role in their success.
“What was interesting about our team […] was we had prepared different textures for the judges,” he explained. “We had the fried, the cold, [and] the crunchy. It was quite versatile and it worked out well.”
Though the competition is quite demanding, Rigout noted that there is a certain gratification attached to thinking on the spot to make a meal.
“The cooking itself can be quite stressful,” he said. “Once you actually make it, and it’s on the plate dressed nicely for the judges [… there’s] a certain satisfaction. You really create things from scratch and you see the final product right away [….] It was an amazing experience I won’t forget.”
McGIll Tribune: Describe yourself in three words:
Clovis Rigout: Energetic, happy, multicultural.
MT: Favourite mathematician or theorem?
CR: Other than my professors— no, not really.
MT: If you had the opportunity to do anything you wanted what would it be?
CR: Understand my math courses better[….] Probably travel quite a lot more, go to Asia and go backpacking for six months.
MT: If you could make your own cake, what would it be?
CR: A cake with raspberries and chocolate would suit me well. Any cake really, even a cheesecake, as long as it had raspberries and chocolate.
MT: What was the last book you read?
CR: Dances with Wolves [by Michael Blake]
MT: What is your favourite article of clothing?
CR: A big sweater that keeps me warm in the winter that my brother bought me over winter vacation. It’s a big warm sweater that just feels good when its -20oC.