Similar to the shows “Chopped” and “Iron Chef,” two teams consisting of four students from two high school culinary arts programs competed in a junior chef competition recently at Delta State University.
According to April Catchings, director of the division of training and program outreach for the Mississippi Department of Education, this is the first year the competition was hosted by the MDE.
The competition was held in the kitchen area of the Eleanor Boyd Walters Hall at Delta State University.
Catchings said students had an hour and a half to cook their dishes and 30 minutes were used to clean up their cooking areas.
The teams consisted of the Chefs of West DeSoto County School from DeSoto County Career Technical Center West’s Culinary Arts II program and the Coahoma Tigers from the Coahoma Early College High School.
Christ Rochelle, culinary instructor of DeSoto County CTC West, said she learned about the competition while at a workshop, and she knew she had a winning team.
"I had 15 students in my Culinary Art II class, so I put each student through a rubric to see who would be the best based on grades, discipline, and leadership," said Rochelle.
Her team prepared a Cuban Chicken Fresca Bowl, while the Coahoma Tigers prepared Curry Pork Cabbage Rolls with zesty tomato sauce and roasted squash.
Cheryl Strong, nutrition director for the Coahoma Community College, was the Coahoma Tigers’ instructor at the competition.
Strong said her students' take on the curry pork roll was a healthier alternative because the ingredients used were low in sodium, sugar and fat.
“What they prepared in this competition, we should be able to bring into our cafeteria as a dish. This competition is making the kids do the specs that I have to do daily as the nutrition director,” said Strong.
The judges were Edward Hill, director of Child Nutrition of West Bolivar Consolidated School District, Ann Twiner, Extension Agent for Sunflower County, and Jessica Stoey, a dietetic Intern at Delta State.
Catchings said, “The teams were graded on time management, food preparation skills as it relates to food sanitation and safety requirements, the attractiveness and taste of the dish, as well as presentation.”
Catchings said they contestants were also graded on their attitudes and the appearance of their uniforms
In the end, the Chefs of CTC West DeSoto County School won over the Coahoma Tigers.
“Each team received 800 point. There was only an eight-point difference,” said Catchings “It was a really close call. Both recipes were really delicious.” With Coahoma there were some skills and safety measures that they were lacking in, but it still turned out pretty good.”
Catchings added there would be two additional round junior cooking competitions in the upcoming weeks.
“There will be a competition in Hattiesburg on Oct. 23 and 24. That will be a two-day competition because roughly eight teams will be participating,” said Catchings. "The following week we will have another competition in Jackson County, and I think we will have seven teams."
The three winning teams will then compete against each other in the state competition in January in Jackson for a chance to win $16,000 each in scholarship money to Sullivan University in Louisville, KY.
Out of those three teams, the winner will go to the regional competition at Sullivan University and will compete against contestants from Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Florida for a change to win a full scholarship to Sullivan University for a value of $45,000 to $55,000.