Bacon lollipops. Warm tomato soup. A college student franticly eating sweet potato pie. Sights like these were aplenty in the basement of 929 Coffee Bar.
Mississippi State University junior graphic design students gathered last Thursday night to unveil the results of their semester-long projects, which required them to build a brand based on a typeface and create a display to be judged, as well as cook a dish in the style of the assigned font.
The result was an alphabet buffet of dishes ranging from French-inspired vanilla desserts, beer and sausages, all the way up to stylized pound cake.
In the end, Katie Ware took home first place with a plate of variety flavored chocolates.
Ware beamed as she accepted her prize of two graphic design books.
Ware said the project had been a long process, and everyone gave a sigh of relief which filled the basement when the event ended.
"During the second week of class, we were assigned our typeface," Ware said. "We came to class with 100 logos."
Since August, these students developed their ideas week by week, guided by professors along the way.
Ware said throughout the process, the artists often had to reconfigure their ideas.
"Sometimes, our ideas were just shot down," Ware said.
Cassie Hester, the students' professor for this project, said the judging process involved both food critiques and faculty members.
"We have critiques where we eat their food, and we talk about how the food does to the type," Hester said. "Does it seem sophisticated enough?"
It was clearly a draining process, but the turnout was indicative. The chilly November night was an alien concept to the 50 plus people moving shoulder-to-shoulder through the rows, trying to sample everything.
The scene was like something straight off of Food Network, and anyone familiar with those shows will know there is usually a disaster at some point, such as a cake falling to pieces.
"That’s happened before," Hester said. "He pulled off the mold, it held for a second, and nobody even moved, but it collapsed."
However, this student did not fail. Hester stressed this was not a baking competition, but rather a contest of concept.
"It’s about the overall approach," Hester said. "The kerning, to the color palettes, the material choices. You know, did you think about the overall presentation?"
One taste tester in attendance was a former competitor, Katie Erickson, who watched the newcomers with nostalgia.
Erickson won when she competed two years ago. As she prepares for graduation and possibly moving to New York City, she said her dish, a stew, brought back special memories.
"I haven’t made that dish since then," Erickson said, laughing.
Experience proved key as Erickson warned the few permitted downstairs ahead of the general crowd.
"If you want anything, grab it and eat it," Erickson said.
While the students look to wrap up their semester and put the project behind them, memories of its tribulations will linger. This is especially true for Ware, who made little chocolate P's more times this semester than most will ever make in their lives. Ware said she is in no rush to reach for any sort of chocolate.
"Not for a while," Ware said.