Culinary students from seven DeKalb County high schools tested their skills at the 9th Annual DeKalb County Council of PTA’s Culinary Extravaganza and Competition in Tucker. But the Clarkston High School culinary team had the winning recipe, taking home first place in the competition. Lakeside placed second and Towers took home third place.
Students from throughout the county gave judges and attendees a little taste of Italy, preparing gourmet three-course meals, as well as 20 sampler pieces. A team of four from each participating school had three hours to prepare the three courses—a starter, an entrée and a dessert. The young chefs served up savory dishes such as stuffed chicken Florentine, herb crusted pork loin, almond biscotti with chocolate drizzles, and figs and raspberry tarts.
Hosted at the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, the March 29 event was designed to prepare students for the fast-paced world of cooking on a professional level and celebrate the skills they have so far.
“We love this event because it promotes several different careers that make up this field. The kids really enjoy competing and of course ,we enjoy the great food,” said event organizer Deidre Pierce, health and wellness coordinator for the DeKalb Council of PTAs. “The kids get to see firsthand how serious, strict and quick these kind of jobs are but they also get to bask in the glory of their beautiful creations.”
The competing high schools were Clarkston, Columbia, Lakeside, Miller Grove, Redan, Towers and Tucker. A team of experienced chefs and accomplished cooks judged the teams. The students, in grades 9-12, were judged on a wide-range of criteria such as plate presentation, depth of dishes, creativity, oral presentation, texture, teamwork and flavor.
“It was a full team effort. My co-captain Pierre, this whole team, including myself, we love to cook for people and we are glad our passion was recognized with first place,” said Clarkston team co-captain Joshua Simpson, a 17-year-old junior. “You feel the pressure once things get going, but as long as you know each other and know your team, that’s how you overcome the pressure in the kitchen.”
Members of all the teams received trophies, medals and certificates of completion in the competition. All of the winners received monetary donations for their school’s culinary program.
Clarkston, the first place winners, also received scholarships to attend Le Cordon Bleu and will be featured in the Junior League of DeKalb County’s Tour of Kitchens on April 26. The Clarkston team also will be featured at the Real Men Cook competition on June 15 in Atlanta. Clarkston’s winning meal was a caprese salad with Roma tomatoes, Italian brimmed pork chops with maple balsamic reduction and zucchini squash spaghetti. Their winning dessert was a strawberry-filled profiterdes with chocolate ganache.
“The ultimate goal is to inspire these students to go out into the industry and be confident when they get to that level. I really enjoy the level of professionalism the kids have shown,” said Le Cordon Bleu Executive Chef Daryl L. Shular. “There were no losers here. These kids spent Friday night preparing and some were up at the crack of dawn getting ready for this competition. They should all be proud of their hard work and dedication to the craft.”