Stirring 800 pounds of boneless chicken, 500 pounds of onion, 300 pounds of carrots and 300 pounds of broccoli in a custom-built 14-foot frying pan, the University of Massachusetts Monday set the record for the world’s largest stir-fry. The stir-fry weighed in at 4,010 pounds, smashing the previous record of 2,319 pounds.
“We started feeding off the energy from last year’s world’s longest California roll,” said project manager Christopher Howland. “Ken Toong, the director of auxiliary enterprises, always likes to bring in the year with a sense of community, a big bang welcome to UMass, so he said, ‘You know what, let’s start the year with the world’s largest stir-fry.’”
Cooking the stir-fry, with the help of student and faculty volunteers, were lead chefs Jet Tila, who helped UMass make the world’s largest California roll last year, and UMass executive chef Willie Sng. Tila, who has been featured on the Food Network, also helped to build the large stir-fry that had held the world record before it was broken by a high school in South Africa in 2005.
“Jet actually had the record previously, so he kind of knew the logistics of what to expect and what we should do and what we shouldn’t do,” Howland said. “So we used him as a consultant. He was like, ‘You will probably need a 14-foot pan in diameter, 18 inches deep to kind of handle the weight.’”
The enormous pan was designed by UMass associate professor of civil and environmental engineering Scott Civjan and manufactured by All Steel Fabrication in North Grafton.
Preparation of the stir-fry began Sunday morning, with participants chopping vegetables. Then on Monday, all the ingredients were shipped to Haigis Mall to be cooked.
“I helped move the vegetables out of the car,” said freshmen volunteer Ryan Austin. “They were really heavy. We had to have two people on each box.”
Using custom designed tools, 20 to 25 people gathered around the pan at a time to stir under the direction of Tila. Despite the drizzle that, according to Howland, cooled the pan a little bit, the stir-fry still cooked in about 40 minutes.
“One of my professors was stirring,” said sophomore Jen Cokotis. “He is shorter than me, so I don’t know how he used the pitchfork to stir it, but it just made my day.”
Once the stir-fry was cooked, it was served to the students who came to the event. The leftovers were shipped out to the dining commons on campus and served on Monday night.
“It is pretty good, and it smells delicious,” Cokotis said. “They did a great job with all the colors and all the veggies.”
Transfer student Scott McPherran agreed that it was delicious, but not about the vegetables. “It’s pretty good. There was a little too many veggies, but I am just not a veggie person.”
In order to certify that UMass actually broke the world record, Freddie Hoff from the New York office of the Guinness Book of World Records was present at the event.
“She’s making sure that the food isn’t pre-cooked and certifying the actual weight of the stir-fry,” Howland said.
To weigh the stir-fry, Hoff first had to verify the weight of a pan using a scale attached to a crane. The dish was then weighed again after the food was done cooking.
The stir-fry was part of the annual “Welcome to UMass Barbeque” first week event, which included burgers, music and t-shirt giveaways, in addition to the record-setting event.
“I like how everybody is really excited and involved,” said freshman Elysia Eastty. “It is really cool to see almost everyone on the campus come out here.”
While the event mostly serves to welcome freshmen to the campus, it is also an opportunity for upperclassman to meet up with friends or bond with new floor mates, some attendees said.
“As an RA, I tried to get my residents to come down and meet people, but some of them had other plans,” said Eddie Mesiti, a resident assistant in the Sylvan Residential Area, who met a friend at the event.
According to Howland, the event was funded entirely through donations from vendors and no meal plan money was used.