Jan. 22, 2010
Anaheim, Calif. - In true Titan comeback spirit, Head Coach Dave Serrano redeemed himself for last year's last-place finish, with a medal for "Best Creativity" in the second annual ESPN Zone Anaheim Cooking Challenge held at Downtown Disney Friday morning.
Pairing up with Easton's Southern California Media Day, the even saw Serrano and 10 other head coaches from the Big West, Pac-10, Mountain West, and West Coast Conferences compete in an "Iron Chef"-style cook-off in front of family and local media in between interviews and trash-talking.
Serrano, who won last year's "Dug Out" award (lowest scoring entree), turned his game around on Friday with his spicy chicken taco dish he dubbed "The Hot Corner." His open-faced fajita-style soft tacos with cilantro and tomatoes impressed the judges despite seeing tacos plates from a few of the other "chefs."
UC Santa Barbara Head Coach Bob Brontsema picked up his second-career "Best Presentation" award, winning over the judges with his plating of red bell peppers to read "UCSB" on the side of his dish. Cal Poly's Larry Lee took home the "Best Taste" award with some cajun tacos. Despite the chicken being pre-spiced, Lee gave all the credit to a secret family recipe and also tried to win over one of the guest judges, Ed Arnold (notable KTLA sports reporter now with KOCE), with cash out of his pocket.
Ending the string of Big West award recipients was Pepperdine's Steve Rodriguez, who was named Top Chef for the best overall score with a chicken alfredo dish.
The most surprising turn of events came as USC's Chad Kreuter, last year's Top Chef, took home both the "Dug Out" and "Kitchen Nightmare" awards for his chicken/pasta creation. Kreuter was awarded Paula Dean's "My First Cookbook", an Easy Bake Oven, a bottle of Pepto Bismol and a fire extinguisher for his efforts.
In addition to cooking, Serrano did an extended live on-air interview with fellow Cerritos High School graduate Roger Lodge of AM 830's Sports Lodge, and also did on-camera interviews with KCBS/KCAL and collegebaseballtoday.com's Eric Sorenson.
Friday's Southern California event was the first of a two-part statewide college baseball media event. Northern California will have its media day next week on the campus of Stanford University.
Also competing in the ESPN Zone Cooking Challenge was Steve Rousey (Cal State Northridge), Mike Gillespie (UC Irvine), Doug Smith (UC Riverside), Jason Gill (Loyola Marymount), John Savage (UCLA), and Rich Hill (San Diego).