The second annual Culinary Arts Cook-Off, sponsored by Cochise College, was held on Wednesday at the Fort Huachuca Education Center Annex and included seven Cochise County high school teams.
The Culinary Arts Program of Study at Cochise College partners with the Cochise County high schools to provide an opportunity for high school students to earn college credit hours before high school graduation while preparing them for the career path they are pursuing.
While this is the second annual cook-off, to many of the students, this was a first-time event. This local event is a practice run for the students who plan on competing in the state Family Career and Community Leaders of America, or FCCLA, Culinary Competition in Tucson on March 21. Nicole Gregory, Benson High School, 17, will be attending the state competition for the third time this year.
A teacher from each school chaperoned each team to provide guidance and assistance. Mia Cashman, Introductory and Advanced Culinary Arts instructor, Benson High School, said, “Most of [the students] are here because … one or two of the teams … are considering going to the real competition.” Cashman plans to have two more practice competitions at Benson High School within the next three weeks to further prepare them for the state contest.
Teams consisted of three students each, representing Benson, Bisbee, Buena, Douglas, St. David, Tombstone and Valley Union high schools. With 10 teams competing, the students were divided into three heats.
Each team was given one hour to cook and ten minutes to present and prepare the plate for judging. The meal prepared by all teams included: a spinach salad with mustard vinaigrette dressing; chicken supreme topped with fried shallot rings; carrots, broccoli and rice pilaf. Each heat’s winning team moved on to the fourth and final heat, to determine the overall winner.
Three judges from Cochise College — Ken Loresch, lead culinary arts instructor; Lora Hendy, pasty chef instructor; and Jeremy Summers, garde manger instructor — assisted and reviewed the cooking and meal preparation. Following the FCCLA guidelines, the judges reviewed for safety and appearance, team organization and food production.
Terry “T-Bone” Kimbley, Sierra Vista chairman of Tourism Commission and Tonya Randolph, Career Technical Education Program Services instructor, Cochise College, scored food taste and presentation.
Kimbley, who judged for the first time this year, said “There is a lot of talent here today, and I don’t think that is something that you would initially anticipate. You tend to think, ‘they’re high school students but man, they have some great skill.’ The thought of retaining that [skill] here [in Sierra Vista] is exciting to me. I just see the future, I see the future of what Sierra Vista is and what it can be while I am here today, and that makes me really happy, what I am seeing.”
While each heat was in session, the other students gathered in a “catch-all” room and participated in culinary arts-related activities such as: making candied flowers out of gum drops; preparing fruit skewers; creating candy hamburgers made of coconut, vanilla wafers, York peppermint patties, cream cheese frosting, and red and yellow dye; and playing an educational culinary arts board game titled “Mise en Place.”
The fourth heat consisted of the three winning teams and a wild card that was decided by the judges. Due to time and weather constraints, the students had only 45 minutes to review the unknown menu, organize a game plan, cook the items and plate the food. The menu was pork loin chops with Dijon cream sauce, zucchini, and cheesy mashed potatoes with bacon.
The final winners were Aaliyah Montoya, Julia Leon, and Zeke Miller, all age 17, from Douglas High School.
For more information regarding this event or the Cochise College Culinary Arts Program, call 515.5347.