Mercer student flexes culinary talents in online chef competition

A male student in an orange jersey is pictured with his grandmother, father and mother with a stadium in the background.
Christian Laureano, second from left, is pictured with his grandmother, father and mother. Photo courtesy Christian Laureano

When he’s not playing lacrosse or in his business classes, Christian Laureano can often be found in the kitchen. The rising junior from Bradenton, Florida, has been working on his cooking skills, and he recently competed in an online chef competition.

Laureano, a supply chain management major, made it to the top five in the Favorite Chef competition, hosted by chef and TV personality Carla Hall. He was selected from a pool of applicants for the “People’s Choice” category and, through public voting, advanced to the top 20 on May 30, top 15 on June 6, top 10 on June 13, and finished in the top five.

Laureano began his cooking journey about four years ago, around the same time he committed to play lacrosse for Mercer. 

“I’ve always had a big appetite, and the best way to deal with that is to learn how to cook,” he said. “Initially, I started cooking for myself to gain muscle mass by way of eating a lot of protein. I knew I had to be taking my diet more seriously to be great at the next level.”

Laureano showcases his cooking creations and adventures on his Instagram page and hopes to increase his following. His favorite dishes to make are taco bowls, which he meal preps with various ingredients and takes to work, and “egg-roll-in-a-bowl,” a mix of coleslaw, eggs, fried rice, soy sauce, green onions and meat. He also enjoys making chicken wings, which he slow-cooks in hot sauce, honey and butter and then crisps in the air fryer. 

A man in a white jersey with the word "Mercer" and the number 17 in orange holds a lacrosse stick while running down the field.
Christian Laureano is shown on the field during a home Mercer men’s lacrosse game against Jacksonville University. Photo courtesy Christian Laureano

“For me, cooking is a creative outlet due to the endless flavor combinations,” he said. “Whether it’s a dish that pushes the boundaries on how spicy you can make something or something more mellow, it all is exciting to me.”

Laureano said his Puerto Rican heritage inspires him to cook with bold flavors and spices such as sazón, a blend of coriander, cumin, garlic powder and other spices. Sazón is an essential ingredient in a favorite dish passed down through his family, and it is Laureano’s goal to one day be able to recreate his grandmother’s recipes.

Laureano tests out his culinary creations on his three roommates, who are willing to try almost anything he makes. Last year, a fellow lacrosse player made ziti for the team on Thursdays, and Laureano is continuing that tradition. This fall, he’ll have the opportunity to create a specialty dish with Yollah Social Kitchen + Garden in Macon.

In early August, the Favorite Chef competition will crown one winner in two categories: Carla’s Pick and People’s Choice. Laureano entered the latter category at the encouragement of his mother, and he was required to submit photos of dishes he had cooked and answer some questions about himself. He ended up placing fourth in his group.

“For me, cooking is something I just love to do in my free time, and I think it is good that I can separate ‘work from play’ and have an outlet to have fun with,” he said. 

This summer, Laureano is interning in the supply chain operations department at Cencora, a pharmaceutical distributor. After he graduates from Mercer, he hopes to work in the supply chain management industry. 


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