Columbia Law School student Oriane Hakkila ’17 defeated two professional chefs and another amateur to win last night's episode of The Food Network’s popular show “Cooks vs. Cons.”
The year-old program is a blind competition between two professional chefs and two amateurs—the “cons”—and the judges and audience don’t not know who’s who until the winner is announced. In last night’s “Salad Bar Blowout” episode, the four contestants all faced the challenge of making an original variation on shrimp scampi sautéed with common salad bar toppings in round one, and a dish of their choice using the secret ingredient of coffee in round two. Hakkila impressed the judges with her take on southern red eye gravy using brewed coffee, over prosciutto-wrapped pork loin and coffee roasted root vegetables.
Last semester, Hakkila applied to “Cooks vs. Cons” on a whim in the middle of the night when she was suffering from insomnia. The Food Network responded with an invitation to audition, and she aced several interviews and a cooking demonstration before being cast. After filming the episode in October, Hakkila faced another challenge: She had to keep her victory (and $15,000 prize) a secret until last night, when she invited several dozen friends to watch the episode with her at a bar in Chelsea.
Cooking has been a way for Hakkila to decompress from the rigors of academics since she was an undergraduate history major at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s a great stress reliever. Last fall, I made a loaf of bread per final,” says Hakkila, who has an intellectual interest in gastronomy. “I always read a lot about food—I like knowing about the culture of food, its origins, its background. It’s like a really nerdy, historical, sociological approach to food.”
When she graduates from Columbia Law School in May, Hakkila will pursue her interest in international law by joining the litigation group at the multinational law firm Clifford Chance, in their New York City office. She credits two Columbia professors as being particularly influential: Benjamin Liebman, the director of the Center for Chinese Legal Studies, and Kent Greenawalt, an expert on constitutional law and jurisprudence who holds classes in his apartment where he serves tea and cookies to his students. “It’s like an intellectual book club,” she says.
Despite her dedication to law, Hakkila confesses she has fantasies of following in the footsteps of celebrity chef Ina Garten. “My absolute dream job if I weren’t in the law world is to be a Food Network star,” she says.
A Q&A with Hakkila appeared in The National Law Journal following her win.
Posted on January 19, 2017