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Boise State Top Chef winners glad they made the cut

Ajkena Cela, a junior kinesiology major, and Sangam Sapkota, a junior electrical engineering major won Boise State’s Top Chef competition on Tuesday, March 7.

Neither Ajkena, who is originally from Albania, nor Sangam, who is from Nepal, expected their victory; both stated they joined the competition to have a good experience as well as a little fun.

“When they announced our team, I was so shocked. I didn’t believe we won,” Sapkota said. “But it was great, I was very happy. I jumped from the seat. I felt like a chef. It was great to win the first cooking competition that I ever participated in.”

The winning dish consisted of salmon, nuts, avocado, bell peppers, dried fruit and a lemon, cut in shape of a crown. According to Cela, the dish was named “King Salmon,” which was a play on “King Solomon” from the Bible.

“We had salmon and avocado, which was soft, so we needed something crunchy to balance it out,” Cela said. “That’s why we added walnuts, pine nuts and dried fruit. I want to show students that my recipes can be creative, nice and healthy. Not a lot of students express themselves through food, you know? Most choose to eat out or buy ramen at the store.”

Ajkena is a more experienced cook, so she handled seasoning and techniques, while Sangam contributed to the aesthetics of the dish.

“We wanted to make it more American, rather than Albanian or Nepali,” Sapkota said. “We also wanted to make it as nutritious as possible, so we had veggies on the side to make it colorful, which was another goal. I definitely like cooking, but, more than that, I enjoy making food look pretty.”