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Culinary class competes in cook-off

Isiah McBride, Christmas Summers, Aimee Wallace. In keeping with tradition, seniors in the advanced culinary arts class took to the kitchen to show who was Top Chef.

Although the menu items might sound like they were from a 5-star restaurant, they were actually just a few of the recipes whipped up by the students for the annual cook-off.

Teacher Crystal Telles came up with the idea for the cook-off as a way to award scholarships to one of the advanced culinary students with Cafe Fresh.

"When the cafe started making a profit, we had money left over at the end of the year, so I thought it would be a good idea to reward the kids for all their hard work and help them further their education," Mrs. Telles said. "Every year there are several students who plan to specialize in culinary after they graduate, and even the students who are just learning how to cook as a hobby are eligible to apply for the scholarship."

The students are completely responsible for the contest meal, from the menu choices and ingredient selection to preparation and presentation.

In addition to the hands-on aspect of the cook-off, the students have to provide the rationale behind their menu.

“Cooking is a passion for me,” said Isiah McBride Jr., who chose Cajun fettuccine pasta with Caesar salad and plans to attend culinary school after graduation. “I also love Cajun and spicy food. When I started out making pasta, this was one of the first pasta dishes I made. It was delicious so I decided to go back to my beginning.”

Judges Jason Brown and Clint Sadler. Students also have to be concerned with other aspects of cooking, such as costs to prepare the meal and the overall presentation, but many times the recipes come with sentimental value.

“I chose a side of fried corn to go with my bacon-wrapped jalapeno popper chicken because it is my grandpa’s recipe,” said Christmas Summers, who also cooked homemade apple crisp for dessert. “I really enjoy making this side dish during holidays or get-togethers.”

Outside “celebrity” judges are brought in to feast on the spread while ranking each entry in regards to taste, texture, variety and appearance.

“I think it's incredible to see results of their hard work all year,” said assistant principal Clint Sadler, who has helped judge the contest the last three years. “It’s impressive that these kids are capable of creating these meals from scratch.”

Jason Brown missed out on the opportunity last year but was back on the judging panel again this year. He said he looks forward to the cook-off.

“Every year the food gets better,” he said. “I’m trying to make sure I get back on the judging list next year. It’s one of the highlights.”

The final results were announced during the scholarship presentation on senior awards night. This year’s recipient was Christmas Summers, who prepared bacon-wrapped stuffed chicken with a side of fried corn and apple crisp with ice cream for dessert.

“I wanted to make something that has the feeling of home,” she said.

The results speak for themselves as she heads to college with an additional $2,000 to help with expenses.

Judge Clint Sadler