Student Corner: CHEF elective

Baylor medical students in the CHEF (Choosing Healthy Eating Fresh) elective held their last class of the year recently, ending with a little friendly competition, Iron Chef style.

Jeff Lin prepares pan-fried mushrooms

Jeff Lin prepares pan-fried mushrooms

The course was started four years ago by Baylor medical students to promote healthy eating. It targets second-year medical students who are about to enter clinical training and start working with patients. The nutritional knowledge they gain helps not just their patients but the students themselves as they are increasingly busy and often focus less on their own wellbeing.

The CHEF course takes place over five classes, each with a different theme, such as diabetes, heart health, obesity, cultural competency or personal health/budgeting. Each class includes a faculty lecture on the topic at hand, and then a chef takes over and teaches the students three recipes that relate to the theme.

Students changed things up for their final class, going head to head in teams for the Iron CHEF event.

Dr. Jerasimos Ballas, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and CHEF faculty mentor, kicked off the evening with a lecture on the importance of nutrition during pregnancy. He reminded the students that, regardless of what field of medicine they decide to go into, they will be a consultant for friends and family for the rest of their lives, so it is important to understand how food and wellness affects everyone. He presented some of the findings of research done during the Dutch Famine of World War II and how that has shaped the way we look at nutrition during pregnancy even to this day. He also touched on the safety of certain foods during pregnancy.

For the competition, five teams of three students each were tasked with creating three dishes (appetizer, entrée and dessert) for judges Ballas, Emily Rutledge, a fourth-year medical student and president of CHEF and Becki O’Brien, longtime CHEF supporter and instructor.

The teams were told in advance that they had to use mushrooms in at least one of the dishes. On the day of the class, a surprise ingredient – dates – was revealed and had to be incorporated in at least one dish as well. They had 25 minutes to make an appetizer, 35 minutes for the entrée and 25 minutes for dessert. The judges were given three criteria on which to judge the dishes – plating design, creativity of the dish and taste.

“Overall, the teams did a wonderful job showing off all they had learned over the semester of cooking. Their dishes were delicious, creative, and an inspiration to those of who have dedicated a lot of energy to making this elective possible,” said Rutledge.

The winners were Team Garlic (Claire Morice, Susan Xie, Melinda Liu, and Jeff Lin) with their offerings of pan-fried mushrooms with a trio of dipping sauces, black bean burgers with an avocado crema and topped with a fried egg and a date crumble dessert. Two recipes from the winning team are listed below.

Pan-fried mushroom (recipe was from Jeff Lin’s mother)


  • Fried mushrooms:
  • Large, portabella mushrooms
  • Cornstarch
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Honey + sriracha + lime
  2. Garlic + olive oil + balsamic vinegar
  3. Soy sauce + sesame oil + rice wine vinegar



  1. Gently wash mushrooms with wet paper towel and take off stems
  2. Cut mushrooms into long slices about 1 cm thick
  3. Coat mushroom slices with cornstarch
  4. Heat pan with cooking oil until pan is completely covered, but no more.
  5. Test oil with cornstarch, when it begins to fry, place mushrooms gently into the frying pan.
  6. Fry until golden brown on each side. About 30 seconds to 1 minute
  7. Take out fried mushrooms and place on paper towel to absorb excess oil


  1. Honey + sriracha + lime until desired taste
  2. Mince garlic, then add salt, and smash with flat end of knife. Add to olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  3. Add soy sauce (base) and sesame oil and rice wine vinegar to taste. You can also add some finely minced garlic and/or ginger.

Black Bean Burgers with Avocado Crema

Black bean burgers:

  1. Heat the oven to 300°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place cornmeal in a shallow dish and set aside.
  2. Place beans, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, cilantro, onion, hot sauce, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse until ingredients are incorporated and beans are broken down but some whole beans remain, about 15 pulses. Stop the processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula during processing.
  3. Form 6 (3-inch) patties and dust each patty on both sides with cornmeal. Place on a baking sheet.
  4. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Place 3 patties in the pan and fry until golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and repeat on the second side. Return patties to the baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining patties.

For the avocado crema:

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and process until smooth. Season with salt.

To assemble:

Place bean cakes on serving plates. Top each with a fried egg and 2 tablespoons of the crema.


For the black bean cakes:

  • 1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

For the avocado crema:

  • 1 medium avocado, cut in half lengthwise, peel and pit removed
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice To assemble:
  • 6 fried eggs