A cook-off gives high school students a tates of what it takes to be successful in culinary arts

Savoring a recipe for learning

December 04, 2005|By KAREN NITKIN | KAREN NITKIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Ken Jarvis, a professor at Anne Arundel Community Colleges Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute, dipped a spoon into the vinaigrette and tasted.

If you want, you can just put a tiny bit of salt in there, he told Josh Morris, a Chesapeake High School junior who had paused in his whisking. That will help break up the acidity.

He drizzled more oil into the bowl while Morris whisked again. Then he picked up the whisk and demonstrated the best motion.

Use your wrist, not your whole arm, he said. Morris was among 35 students from Anne Arundel public high schools participating in a cook-off Thursday at the HCAT Institute in Glen Burnie.

The students, who learned about the cook-off through their nutrition teachers, had two hours to make a pizza and salad. The cook-off, now in its fifth year, was sponsored by a program called Tech Prep, a partnership between the college and the county school system, which allows high school students to earn college credits for courses taken in high school.

Basically, the cook-off is an advertisement for the colleges HCAT Institute, and possibly a step toward encouraging a culinary career, said Mary Garner, director of the institute.

We call it a program pathway, she said. It helps them see a path.

Similar programs are offered in health and business, but theyre not as hands-on, she said. For example, in health programs, students might learn to use a blood-pressure cuff.

But during the cook-off, the teens were set loose in the institutes gleaming stainless-steel professional kitchen. As they cooked, they got advice from professors such as Jarvis, who roamed the kitchen while the students chopped herbs, rolled dough and added seasonings to their auce.

It's fun, said Morris, who added that he aspires to be a chef.

In previous cook-offs, high school students were chal lenged to make a single dish, Jarvis said. But this year, they were asked to make both a salad and a pizza. Students were given basic recipes but were encouraged to experiment.

They started with a lump of pizza dough, unadorned sauce and a loaf of bread, which could be used to make croutons. Then the contestants could grab what they wanted from a gorgeous display of ingredients arrayed on a table, including sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme; slices of pepperoni; a bowl of parmesan cheese; another bowl of sun-dried tomatoes; baskets of whole onions, shallots and garlic; and giant containers of oil and vinegar.

The goal of the cook-off was to create a challenge that would stretch the culinary muscles of the high schoolers without daunting them, Jarvis said.

We tried to do a recipe that could be done in the two hours they have, he said. Also, for the first time this year, four of the institutes five full-time instructors roamed, offering advice and answering questions during the cook-off, he said.

Results were judged on criteria that included smell, taste, arrangement, cleanliness and ability to work as a team, said Paul Wilson, a college spokesman. Cleaning up as they went along was an important part of the assignment.

The judges this year were Louann Tracy, director of lifelong learning at the college; Maria Fiery, a member of the adjunct faculty; and Tom McGinn, the colleges director of admissions.

After the pizzas and salads were judged, they were, of course, eaten.

Working in teams of three and four, the students took steps to make sure their pizzas and salads had someM-Wthing special that would appeal to the judges. Alex Hart, a junior at Southern High School, said his teams pizza had cheese and sausage both under the sauce and over it.

We put red peppers on, too, to put some color on it, said his teammate, Ben Ierardi, a Severna Park High School junior.

Some students volunteered because the cook-off seemed like fun, while others were already serious about futures in food.

Janaye, the Gourmet. Thats going to be my cooking show, said Janaye Stevenson, a junior at North County High School, who hopes to be a celebrity chef. At home, she cooks all the time, mostly soul food such as fried chicken, pork chops and collards, she said.

It feels good to be in a real kitchen, with other people cooking and learning real things, she said.

Sarah McGeehan, a senior at South River High School, said she hopes to be a wedding planner and that learning to cook is an important aspect of that. And Chris Geiger, a senior at Northeast High School, believes hell work in the kitchen of a high-end restaurant.

He's already planning to attend HCAT next year, and his cook-off experience simply confirmed for him that he was on the right track. I actually loved it, he said of the cook-off.

The first-place team consisted of Eileen Barber of Old Mill High School, Dave Jones of Severna Park High School, Matt Meyer of Arundel High School and Kelly Marshall of Southern High School. Taking second place were Jarvis Askew of Glen Burnie High School, Joe Courtney of Chesapeake High School and Shung Song of Old Mill.

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