Diverse chefs aspire – The pressure of a four-star kitchen was recreated as 21 multicultural NYC public high school student finalists faced off in a cooking challenge. The diverse, young aspiring chefs were participating in “Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) New York-Cooking Competition for Scholarships.” Teachers, families, sponsors, C-CAP alums and staff and mentors were present to cheer them on. They all believe that supporting the students’ chef school education is key to their success. (C-CAP operates in several states around the nation.)
Hosted by ICE (Institute of Culinary Education), a two-course French meal featuring Hunter’s Chicken with Tourne Potatoes and Dessert Crepes with Pastry Cream and Chocolate Sauce, was prepared under the scrutiny of a team of judges. Besides taste and presentation, the students were judged on speed, sanitation, safety, organization, timing, workflow, technique and skills.
After a pep talk by Richard Grausman, C-CAP founder, Susan Robbins, C-CAP president, and some of the judges, the students got to work in three kitchens crowded with judges and media.
“Work with your heart and don’t be afraid,” said Robbins. “Taste your food, and go light with the salt,” said Grausman. “If you cut yourself, raise your hand and label your plate with a number so that we know who you are,” said another judge.
All-Star Chef Judges
“I look for a rhythm, a flow like a dance in the kitchen. This group is very confident,” said Thiago Silva, C-CAP alum, judge and executive pastry chef, EMM Group, The General.
“I wish I could take each one of them back to my restaurant. It’s obvious that they are very skilled already,” said Maria Loi, executive chef at Loi Restaurant.
“I told them to cook like you are cooking for your mother,” said JJ Johnson, chef de cuisine, The Cecil and Mintons. “I could see that they were nervous in the beginning. But, as prep moved to cooking, their confidence was there,” Johnson added.
“Nervousness is expected. This is their first time in this kitchen. They got into their zone pretty quick. I saw a few mess-ups and they recovered very well. My job is to remind them to stay calm, watch the timeline and replace potatoes if they got rotten ones,” said Rebecca Rios, the kitchen manager and C-CAP alum.
All competitors will be invited to a final awards event on April 11 at the Pierre Hotel where the results of this competition will be revealed and $500K in scholarships will be presented, according to a C-CAP spokesperson.