It was a beautiful fall morning for the nearly 100 race participants and dozens of supporters who brought their family, friends, pets and appetites to the fourth annual GridIron Chef Contest and 5K Fun Run.
The annual event is hosted by the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health. It features two football-themed obstacle course fun runs – a 1K for the kids and a 5K for anyone looking for more of a challenge, a healthy cooking contest and a college tailgate.
This year’s fun run top finishers were:
1K Fun Run – Logan Lassiter, 6:47
5K Overall Male – Justin Loftus, 19:35
5K Overall Female – Jessica Beck, 26:14
One runner was a newbie to the event. Javier Nieto, the college’s new dean, was the winner – in the dean’s category. No stranger to the sport – he completed the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., in 2014 – he was happy to start his Saturday morning with a little exercise.
“I was impressed by the sense of community and family aspect of the event,” Javier says. “Running makes me feel energized, and I enjoyed seeing the kids engaged and having fun. This is a great family event and could set the stage for children to discover that they enjoy running. And who doesn’t like good food and drink after running?”
Work hard then eat good
After crossing the finish line, runners were rewarded at the college tailgate in front of the Women’s Building. Sponsors supplied food and beverages for attendees, and samples of the top five GridIron Chef finalists’ recipes were served. The crowd was invited to vote on their favorite recipe.
“It’s great to see the community supporting creative ways to eat healthy – even during football season,” says Emily Ho, endowed director of the Moore Family Center.
“I love it when people first taste our winning GridIron recipes and their response is ‘that’s really good!’ Healthy food doesn’t mean you have to compromise on taste. Many of our winning recipes were healthier versions of some tailgate favorites – like our winning meatballs and taquitos. I encourage everyone to give them a try – they are tasty, easy to make and healthy. It’s win-win all around.”
This year’s finalists are:
- Terrific Tailgate Taquitos with Savory Sauce by Julie Jacobs *People’s Choice winner*
“These taquitos are based off an enchilada recipe we use for dinner at our house,” Julie says. They are always a favorite, so I thought it might be fun to try and make them into a fun snack food as well.”
- Spicy Stuffed-Pepper Poppers by Melissa McDougall
“My family loves to eat finger foods while watching sports, but many of their favorites are not the healthiest options,” Melissa says. “Since everyone enjoys Mexican cuisine, I wanted to create something that was a nutritious alternative.
- Smokey Yam Meatballs by Morgan Gebhardt *GridIron Chef winner*
“The GridIron Chef Contest was completely up my alley, so it was no question for a major foodie and nutrition nerd, like myself, to enter,” Morgan says. “I love to recreate ‘unhealthy’ recipes into healthier versions at home and I’m obsessed with using seasonal foods. Honestly, the inspiration for creating this meatball recipe came simply from those two things.”
- Curried Couscous Salad by Colin Albi
“I wanted to choose a light and flavorful dish that pairs well with other dishes,” Colin says. “Some of the more common food items at a tailgate can be dense and nutritionally deficient, and I wanted to balance such items with a health and filling curry couscous salad.”
- Stuffed Autumn Red Bell Peppers by Juan Pinilla
All entries were judged based on the contest criteria of nutritional value, taste and appeal, creativity and ease of preparation. The panel choose Morgan’s Smokey Yam Meatball as the 2016 GridIron Chef Winner, and Julie’s Terrific Tailgate Taquitos with Savory Sauce took the People’s Choice title.
Finalists received Bob’s Red Mill gift cards and products, and Morgan secured two tickets to the Civil War game.
Morgan says fall reminds her of fire and smoke, which triggered her inspiration for the meatball’s flavor.
“People usually think of tailgater food as all junk-filled comfort food, but a majority of the popular tailgate foods I saw on Pinterest could easily be altered – even just a little – to make it a healthier while still being tasty,” Morgan says. “I think more people should challenge themselves and their creativity, to see how they can recreate their favorite tailgating foods into being healthier but still tasty.”
As a self-taught cook with no formal training, Julie says she feels thrilled and honored to be a finalist and to be chosen as the crowd favorite.
“I have always loved the taste of sweet potato and black beans together, so adding the avocado, cheese and sauce just came naturally when we crafted this Tex-Mex inspired dish,” Julie says.
This year’s presenting sponsors were PacificSource Health Plans, Bob’s Red Mill and OSU University Housing and Dining. Woodstocks Pizza Parlor, DeLuxe Brewing, Tried & True Coffee Company, OSU Athletics and Heresco Chiropractic also supported the event.
“Community wellness is a key value for us and we love to support academic programs aimed at improving the health and wellness of students,” says Marian Blankenship, PacificSource VP of Government and Community Relations. “In addition to involving OSU students, this program is unique in that it reaches the entire OSU community and provides opportunities to make their everyday lives healthier.”