Last week, Eddie Zeng was declared the winner of the second annual student spice competition, sponsored by FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and Badia Spices Inc. Five Chaplin School students competed head-to-head with their original seafood seasonings, judged by three local celebrity chefs based on creativity, flavor, appearance and the student’s description. The celebrity chef panel included Daisy Diaz from Sabores Café, Mark Militello from Mark’s Place and Hector Morales from Epicure Market & Café. “This contest presents an amazing opportunity to showcase product innovation and creativity,” said Zeng. “It was an honor to present my seasoning along with fellow competing students in front of industry professionals and the President of Badia Spices Inc., Joseph “Pepe” Badia.” The winning blend is a combination of thyme, kosher salt, celery seed, fennel seed, cumin, paprika, black pepper, and smoked paprika. The spice will debut — and its name will be revealed— during the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by FOOD & WINE in February 2015. It is expected to be available in stores by summer. Zeng won a $5,000 scholarship along with life-long bragging rights. His winning blend will be used to create a commercial version that will be distributed globally by Badia with five percent of the sales donated to Chaplin’s Student Enrichment Fund in perpetuity. “It is an extremely rewarding experience to help develop the next generation of industry professionals,” said Joseph Badia. “I was so impressed with the winning spice and can’t wait to have it on shelves. I know everyone is going to love it.” Badia Spices also awarded each of the remaining four finalists $2,500 scholarships. “The ongoing partnership with Badia Spices reinforces our School’s endeavor to produce innovation-focused graduates with a critical understanding of the industry,” said Mike Hampton, dean of the Chaplin School. “We are extremely grateful to Joseph Badia for his trust in our students and for his continuous support of the Chaplin School.” Last year’s winning spice, “Holy Smokes,” a Badia Spices pork and meat rub inspired by a mix created by Chaplin School recent graduate Jenifer Bound, is currently available worldwide.
Joseph “Pepe” Badia and Hospitality Management chef instructor Michael Moran with student winner Eddie Zeng (center), at the second annual competition in the Wine Spectator Restaurant Management Lab.