Students Combine Skill and Personal Ingenuity to Create State's Best Culinary Dishes

Feb 28, 2012

"Acclaimed Culinard Institute Hosts Alabama High School Culinary Championships"

Montgomery, Ala. — Over the past decade, America's culinary and hospitality industries have become some of the leading sources of new employment opportunities in the country. Successful television programs, like Iron Chef and Cake Boss, along with well–known professional chefs such as Paula Deen and Gordon Ramsey, have all helped to spark a new sense of excitement for cooking in America.

This week, Alabama's top high school culinary arts students will be competing in Birmingham at Culinard — the Culinary Institute of Virginia College — to earn top state awards and a possible spot to represent Alabama at the upcoming 2012 Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) National Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida.

The Alabama culinary championship will be held from 7:30 a.m., until noon, on March 3.

According to the National Restaurant Association, food service sales in the U.S. reached a record high in 2010, despite the challenging economy. Last year, U.S. restaurant sales reached $580 billion (up more than 2.4 percent).

"This event will be action–packed and an excellent opportunity for Alabama's high school students to extend their early knowledge of cooking," says Chef Antony Osborne, Dean of Culinard. "This year, we have exactly 14 top student teams competing. This is really a great opportunity for these students to further develop their lifelong career skills."

Each participating school is allowed to bring a team of three students. Teams will be judged on planning (making time schedules, organizing their work area, obtaining needed supplies) and overall food production.

Teams must successfully prepare one of the following menus (from scratch) to advance to the national competition in Florida:

  • Menu 1Mushroom Pork Scaloppini, Rice Pilaf, and Golden Delicious Apple and Cheddar Turnovers with Dried Cranberries
  • Menu 2Shaved Fennel and Pear Salad with Parmesan, Herbed Apple Glazed Chicken, and Spiced Brussels Sprouts
  • Menu 3Beef Tenderloin with Southwestern Sauce, served with Carrot, Cilantro, and Chile Slaw, and Grilled Pound Cake with Pineapple Salsa and Whipped Cream

"If you have ever watched the hit television show Iron Chef, you have seen an action–packed contest, which is very similar to this Alabama FCCLA Star Event competition," says Judy Brown, Alabama Career and Technical Education Specialist. "Teams are made–up of three students, and each is enrolled in a culinary arts program at their high school. The contest focuses on each student's ability to use internationally accepted food preparation standards, techniques, and equipment to produce a quality product. Every team must develop a detailed food preparation plan, and must also have all dishes ready within a one hour timeframe."

Schools participating in this year's state championship are: A.P. Brewer High School, Auburn High School, Bob Jones High School, Central High School (Phenix City), Cullman Career and Technology Center, Florence High School, Fort Payne High School, Hewitt–Trussville High School, Huntsville Center for Technology, McAdory High School, Russell County High School, Shelby County School of Technology, and Wenonah High School.

At the beginning of the contest, all teams receive the official menu and ingredients to complete their meals. Each team has exactly 30 minutes to organize their work areas, supplies, and time management plans. Teams have only 60 minutes to prepare their required dishes, which include a full appetizer, main course, and a dessert. To complete this enormous task, students must be well organized and knowledgeable of proper food preparation techniques.

At the end of the one hour contest period, participants then present their completed dishes to a panel of professional chefs and nationally recognized instructors. Every item is judged for appearance, taste, and temperature. During the competition, students are also judged on their work habits, personal appearance (uniforms and equipment), and overall creativity.

"There is a great potential for these students to have successful careers in culinary fields in the future," says Chef Osborne.

Alabama's Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs are already preparing students for successful careers in this growing segment of the workforce.

FCCLA is a national, non–profit organization devoted to preparing family and consumer sciences students for leadership and future career opportunities. Alabama has more than 7,000 members who enjoy the many benefits this organization offers.

To learn more about this Alabama FCCLA competition, contact Alabama Department of Education CTE Specialist, Judy Brown, at (334) 242–9113 or Dean of Culinard, Chef Antony Osborne, at (205) 802–1200.