Like most college students, O’Shane Elliott knows his way around a package of ramen noodles and a can of Chef Boyardee. But his palate is also infused with memories of time spent cooking Caribbean favorites with his late grandmother.
Fulfilling a childhood dream, Elliott had the chance to combine those worlds of flavor on national television as a contestant on the hit Food Network show Chopped.
In his bright-orange Miami T-shirt, the senior political science major represented the U in style on the first-ever Chopped College Challenge episode, which aired last September.
The show pitted four students against each other in a grueling three-round cook-off for college chef supremacy. “I can’t let down the University of Miami!” said Elliott, who compared the pressure of cooking on camera to that of a football game day.
As the schedule manager for Hurricanes mascot Sebastian the Ibis, Elliott is used to performing under pressure.
He showed the Chopped judges how ’Canes handle the heat of the kitchen. Wrangling “college-style” ingredients such as instant ramen, frozen vegetables, and pizza turnovers, he served up tasty treats, like an Alfredo turkey sandwich with lemon aioli and a steak that one judge described as being “cooked perfectly” to beat out two competitors.
But his signature curry broccoli was shy on spice—belying his Jamaican heritage—and his dessert, “Sebastian Soup with Eye of the Hurricane Doughnuts,” cost him the win, which went to a New York University student.
Still, the experience was well worth it for Elliott, who, as a child, petitioned The Food Network to put more kids on its shows. As fate would have it, over a decade later, he saw an email from the network seeking student chefs.
An application and two interviews later, he was off to New York City to compete.
At UM, cooking is just one of Elliott’s passions. He served as chair of the 2015 Homecoming Executive Committee, vice-chair for the Committee on Student Affairs, and co-chair of the Black Awareness Month Committee. “I am a huge Hurricanes sports fan,” he added, not to mention a talented writer whose short story “The Hill, Named after Some White Man”—written for his African-American Literature class—is part of the “Slave Narrative Project” permanently preserved in the UM Libraries Scholarly Repository.
But Elliott won’t soon forget the lessons he’s learned from cooking—and competing. As he told The Miami Hurricane: “Don’t be afraid to do things on the spot,” and, “Life is salt. Always salt your food.”