Article by Myra Saturen. Photos by Phil Stein.
June 03, 2013
The stakes were high, and the prize scrumptious--a chance to work in New Orleans, at a restaurant owned by Emeril Lagasse! On May 17, seven NCC culinary students wielded spatulas and ladles at a cooking contest at Hampton Winds, the College's student-run, fine dining restaurant. Within strictly timed limits they had to prepare an appetizer, salad, entrée and dessert. Judges were well-known chefs from throughout the community. Then the students, who had to have a 3.0 GPA and write an essay to qualify, had to wait two more weeks to find out which three contestants had won the coveted rewards.
The three top-scoring students were announced by Emeril himself at a cooking demonstration held during the Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Festival at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem. The winners will travel to New Orleans, all expenses paid, for a one-week internship in Emeril's three restaurants there.
More than 100 guests and 37 culinary students attended the sold-out cooking demonstration at which Emeril prepared shrimp and corn chowder, green onion rice pilaf, Brazilian fish stew, and a salad made of cantaloupe, prosciutto and arugula.
Lagasse said that the inspiration for his menu came from the Lehigh Valley. For example, he chose corn as a chowder ingredient because our area is noted for its excellent product. The chef also used other locally grown ingredients, such as the arugula. He compared his cooking method to building a house, beginning with a foundation. From there, he tops each layer with such components as seasoning, stock and thickening agents, and depending on what he is creating. On this occasion, he said that he "creolized" the dishes by adding typically New Orleans foods like Andouille sausage and cayenne. He emphasized the importance of frequent tasting and making adjustments when needed. He demonstrated a simple, homemade salad dressing as a superior alternative to commercial dressing from a bottle. He also shared secrets for making a perfect pot of rice. "You are cooking, not rushing," he said as he let the stew simmer.
At the end of the demonstration, Lagasse announced the winners of the cooking competition, introducing each contestant with a brief biography and praise for their cuisine. Later in the day they got to cook with him as he prepared a gala dinner in The Chop House. The experience left them "over the moon" according to Susan Roth, associate professor of culinary arts at NCC.
The winners are:
Tim Reilly. After a career as a financial analyst for Dun and Bradstreet, Reilly enrolled in NCC's culinary program. The husband and father loves southern food and barbecue. "Tim knows what seasoning and flavor is about," Lagasse said. Reilly is excited about his win and looks forward to seeing how Emeril runs his restaurants.
Emily Walsh. "Emily knows how to get a job done with excellent timing," Emeril said. Walsh anticipates learning more about New Orleans-style cooking. Before coming to NCC, she taught herself by reading recipes and experimenting in the kitchen.
Damiana DiPilato "She came all the way from Italy," Lagasse said and commended her talent and dedication. "I do it all for my parents," DiPilato said of her mother and father, who live in Bari, Italy. "They did so much for me. I want to make them proud."
Proceeds from sponsorships of the Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Festival benefit the Northampton Community College Foundation. Scroll down to see a photo of Northampton culinary students and faculty with Emeril. To see more photos from the cooking demo check out the Flickr gallery.
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