ANAHEIM — Basketball coaches turned in their playbooks for aprons and cookbooks Tuesday at the ESPN Zone at Downtown Disney.
Featuring just the Southern California-based schools, five of the nine Big West Conference men’s and women’s head coaches competed in a cook-off as part of Big West Media Day.
The participants were: Cal State Fullerton’s Bob Burton and Marcia Foster; Cal State Northridge’s Bobby Braswell and Staci Schulz; Long Beach State’s Dan Monson and Jody Wynn; UC Irvine’s Pat Douglass and Molly Goodenbour; and UC Riverside’s Jim Woolridge and John Margaritis.
Both coaches from each school teamed up to prepare two dishes in a 20-minute timeframe: sun-dried tomato penne and an original creation of their choice. The pairs were judged on creativity, presentation and taste by a panel of four including Orange County Register sports columnist Marcia Smith, ESPN Zone head chef Tom Keaveny, Los Angeles Angels account executive Tiffany Graham and the team’s executive chef David Dekker.
The big winners of the day were Burton and Foster, who walked away with three medals including best presentation, taste and the overall “top chef” nod. CSUN’s team of Braswell and Schulz earned the best creativity medal.
“I didn’t do a thing,” Burton quipped, giving all the credit to his partner.
The 49ers’ tandem looked like polar opposites maneuvering around the makeshift kitchen. As Wynn was taking instructions from the host of professional chefs, Monson was adding the final touches on what he dubbed “The Heart Attack Dish” — a shrimp, chicken, white/red sauce pasta concoction — with a puzzled look on his face.
“It was simple. A professional chef was telling us which ingredients to use,” Wynn calmly said.
Meanwhile, Monson played up the crowd, which included athletic department officials from various schools and the media.
“This is going to make your cholesterol go through the roof,” Monson joked on the microphone as he was preparing his “special.”
The judges didn’t know what to think of the creation.
“Is that a swirl of red sauce?” a confused Dekker asked.
The coaches didn’t leave the trash talking and good-natured competitive spirit at home.
While waiting on the center stage as the UCI pair were judged, Monson shouted, “It’s getting cold, that’s not fair! It’s like we’re getting jobbed by a bad ref at Northridge, right now!”
But the LBSU team, which came away with a consolation medal, didn’t turn in the least impressive meal. That “honor” went to UCR’s Woolridge and Margaritis — the lone team carrying two males, no less.
Instead of just awarding the three original medals, the contest officials presented the duo with the “Kitchen Nightmare” award.
“You didn’t even taste ours!” Woolridge told Dekker, who arrived at the judges’ table midway through the competition. “This is humbling.”
Dekker snapped back, “A win’s a win coach.”
A host of gifts were even given to the UCR team, including an “Anyone Can Cook” book, a fire extinguisher and an Easy Bake Oven. But Margaritis wasn’t discouraged by the presentation.
“I was scared I would go home and have my wife think I could cook,” he said, sending the room into a unison roar of laughter.
In the end, Monson was pleased with the change in atmosphere of past Media Day sessions.
“I commend the Big West for putting on something different,” he said.