High School Culinary Students Test Skills in Competition

Apr 25, 2013

Allez cuisine!

Fans of Iron Chef and Iron Chef America recognize this familiar phrase — it means "Go cook" or "Start cooking" — bellowed just before teams of master chefs race the clock to produce tasty, beautiful dishes.

Now in its second year, the Golden Spoon Competition, sponsored by Culinard, Golden Corral, and Birmingham (Ala.) City Schools, lets students demonstrate their culinary skills, Iron Chef-style. At this year's competition, held at Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College, teams of four students had just two hours to create an appetizer, entrée and dessert. While teams were given boxes of supplies, a secret ingredient upped the excitement factor. This year's ingredient was dark chocolate couverture, which is high-quality chocolate that contains a large amount of cocoa butter.

The goal of the high school culinary competition is to promote excellence and creativity among students who are seeking careers in the culinary and hospitality industries, and to promote the Culinary Arts program of the Birmingham City Schools. This year's judges were Bob Carlton, dining columnist for al.com, Donna Mayer, kitchen manager at Golden Corral, and Clayton Sherrod of Chef Clayton's Food Systems.

For two hours, students chopped, stirred, sautéed and put their cooking skills and teamwork to the test. At the end of the competition, Parker High School's team was declared the winner. Their mouth-watering menu was bruschetta, beef quesadillas and pound cake muffin toppers with homemade strawberry ice cream and chocolate ganache. Led by teacher Andrea Hopkins, the members of the Parker High team were Ladarrion Wright, Kayla Robinson, Joshua McCammon and Kenya Hill. Seniors on the winning team will receive scholarships to Culinard.

Chef Antony Osborne, Dean of Culinard, says several things impressed him about this year's teams.

"We saw a significant difference in the grooming standards of the students compared to last year," he says. "Every student looked very professional, was appropriately dressed and wore the correct kitchen shoes. The quality and creativity of the dishes being prepared showed the students' growth and development through participation in this competition and the teams seemed better coordinated and communicated more effectively."

Chef Osborne also said that the culinary teachers had gotten more involved with the training of their students this year. That will, hopefully, lead to an even better competition next year and pave the way for some of the students to seek a college-level education in the culinary arts.

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