by Myra Saturen
May 17, 2013
By 8:00 a.m. on May 17 the Hampton Winds kitchen at Northampton Community College (NCC) was a center of concentrated thought, followed by swift but controlled activity. Before the contestants lay identical mystery trays-- 1 whole chicken, 10 shrimp, a linked smoked Andouille, 1/2 lb. tasso (Cajun cured pork), 1 ear fresh corn, a pomegranate, baby spinach, fingerling potatoes, peaches, jalapeno, lovage, tomatillo. The challenge? To transform these disparately tasting and textured ingredients into a prize-winning 4-course meals, complete with appetizer, composed salad, entrée, and composed dessert.
The stakes were high, and the prize may come once-in-a-lifetime--a chance to work in New Orleans at a restaurant owned by Emeril Lagasse! Five NCC culinary students and two recent graduates competed whisk to whisk for the honor and the experience.
Rules stated that students had to use every ingredient on the mystery tray, but were free to also choose anything else available in the pantry.
Jotting ideas into notebooks, contestants first came up with a game plan--what could be best used for what. An ear of corn? Part of an entrée?
At one station, Reilly smashed fingerling potatoes and sprinkled seasoning over them so they could be fried later. At her station, Walsh grated Parmesan cheese into small piles to be made into croutons. Balogh put together a chocolate hazelnut torte. Gaydos grilled peaches, and DiPilato whipped up peanut butter for a mousse. Cortes coated shrimp with coconut, and Tocket set the delicate crust of a crème brulee.
The resulting dishes were judged on taste, creative use of products, and presentation, by Victor Bock, executive food and beverage manager at Sands Bethlehem; Stacey Calles, executive chef at Emeril's Chophouse; and Shawn Doyle, CEC, Chef Owner, Savory Grille. Doyle is a graduate of NCC's culinary program.
The three top-scoring students will be announced at the Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Festival at the Sands on May 31 - June 2. The winners will then travel to New Orleans, all expenses paid, for a one-week internship in Emeril's New Orleans, Emeril's Delmonico, and NOLA.
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