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CSD and Nutrition Students Team Up for Iron Chef Competition


What do mashed potatoes, black bean soup, and coconut flan have in common?

Not only are they foods easy for individuals with dysphagia, a swallowing disorder, to consume, but they are also dishes recently prepared by master’s students from the NYU Steinhardt Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders (CSD) and Department of Nutrition and Food Studies taking “Interdisciplinary Case-Based Management in Dysphagia.” 

Three students in aprons and baseball caps talking around a metal table.

Nutrition and Communicative Sciences and Disorders students discussing the competition and their dishes.

The course brought together aspiring speech-language pathologists and dietitians to gain hands-on experience applying holistic approaches to patient care. Students learned how to evaluate dysphagia and select foods that are nutritious, safe for patients to consume, and tasty – while exchanging knowledge from their respective disciplines along the way.

“This is a rare, rare opportunity to practice collaborative, person-centered care in the context of such a basic, yet essential quality of life need – eating and drinking,” said Erin Embry, Associate Dean for Academic Operations and Clinical Assistant Professor of Communicative Sciences and Disorders.

Embry teaches the course alongside Assistant Dean for Global Affairs and Experiential Learning and Clinical Professor of Nutrition Lisa Sasson.

A student in scrubs and an NYU Steinhardt apron scrapes the inside of a stand mixture with a spatula.

After consulting with student teams on their patient profiles, a few NYU Rusk Rehabilitation and NYU Langone Health residents participated in the cooking portion of the challenge.

“Interdisciplinary Case-Based Management in Dysphagia” culminated in an Iron Chef-style competition in the NYU Food Lab, where teams of students received a hypothetical patient case to collaboratively analyze in consultation with residents from NYU Rusk Rehabilitation and NYU Langone Health. 

After identifying their patient’s specific swallowing and nutritional needs, each group set out to develop and prepare an appropriate multi-course meal. 

Racing against the clock to chop, blend, saute, and carefully plate their dishes in under two hours, students ultimately put down their cooking utensils and prepared to put their combined knowledge to the test before this year’s panel of judges (pictured from left to right below):

  • Riva Touger-Decker: Professor and Chair of the Department of Clinical and Preventive Nutrition Sciences at the Rutgers School of Health Professions; Associate Dean for Global Affairs at the Rutgers School of Health Professions

  • Gianfranco Sorrentino: Restaurateur; President and Chairman of nonprofit Il Gruppo Italiano

  • Sonja Molfenter: Associate Professor of Communicative Sciences and Disorders specializing in dysphagia

  • Rick Smilow: President and CEO of the Institute for Culinary Education; author of Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food

  • Dr. Steven Flanagan: Professor and Chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Langone Health

  • Erica Reid: Founder and CEO of health-conscious lifestyle brand nécessité; author of Shut Up and Cook and The Thriving Child

Students standing at the side of a room before a panel of judges.

A team of students listening to feedback from the judging panel.

Congratulations to the winning team (Emily McGee, Evangeleena Marino, Sarah Mandel, and Christina Lauren Chloe; photographed below with their professors) –  their meal of mango berry limeade, black bean soup with avocado crema, vegan tamales with mole, and coconut flan with berry sauce earned top marks from the judges. 

"The emphasis of this course is treating the patient, not the disease, and placing importance on the sensory value of a meal – and our students accomplished this goal,” said Professor Sasson.

Explore the photos below to see more from this year's competiton!

Erin Embry

Chief Operating Officer; Clinical Associate Professor

Lisa Sasson

Associate Dean for Global Affairs and Experiential Learning; Clinical Professor, Nutrition and Food Studies

About the Master's Degrees in CSD and Nutrition

Master of Science
Communicative Sciences and Disorders
On-Campus Degree

This degree prepares you for eligibility to become a professionally licensed speech-language pathologist.

Master of Science
Nutrition and Dietetics: 40-Credit Clinical Nutrition
Pre-Professional Degree

The 40-credit MS in Nutrition and Dietetics with a Concentration in Clinical Nutrition will put you on track toward attaining Registered Dietitian Nutritionist credentials.

Master of Science
Nutrition and Dietetics: 34-Credit Clinical Nutrition

If you’re a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist or have already completed a dietetic internship, the 34-credit master’s in Nutrition and Dietetics will further develop and advance your clinical dietetics training.