Junior chefs cook up challenge
Nine vie for High School Challenge championship
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 09, 2013 06:00 am
Nine St. Albert students hope to cook up culinary gold today as they take part in an annual clash of high-school champions.
Nine chefs from Paul Kane, Bellerose and St. Albert Catholic High are in the kitchen stadium at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology today as part of the sixth annual Edmonton High School Culinary Challenge.
Organized by the Canadian Culinary Federation, the annual event challenges high-school teams from 12 Edmonton-area schools to cook a three-course gourmet meal in just four hours.
It’s a bit like the cooking contests you see on The Food Network, says Christine Samson, foods and fashion teacher at St. Albert Catholic. “The recipes are quite challenging for kids of this level,” she says, and the students get quite excited about the challenge.
Interest was so high this year that, for the first time, they had to hold a draw to see which schools got to participate, says Simon Smotkowicz, event chair. They also reduced the number of teams from 13 to make the kitchen less crowded.
Students will have four hours to cook six servings of beef, bean and barley soup, pan-roasted chicken supreme and chocolate mousse, Samson says, and will be judged on taste, presentation and kitchen skills.
This event is good training for the Skills Canada Alberta competition later this year, Smotkowicz says, and gives students a shot at culinary scholarships. “It’s a real morale booster for the kids.”
Luke Cupelli, Carmela Arguelles and Austin Haining will represent St. Albert Catholic in this year’s competition. It’s the second time the school has taken part in the event.
Cupelli says his Italian background has been a boon when it comes to cooking. “My grandmother, almost all the food she makes is from scratch,” he says, and he spent a lot of time with her when he was young.
He’s seen cooking contests on television, but this will be his first time actually competing in one. “We don’t know what it’s going to be like,” he says. “We’re on our own. We can’t afford to freak out.” The team has already put in weeks of practice to prepare.
Kyle Handfield, Aileen Sturges and Jamie Malbeuf of Paul Kane are back for their second run at the high school challenge. The trio previously represented the school at last October’s Gold Medal Plate competition.
The team was brushing up on its chocolate work Thursday, says coach Randy Kozak, after weeks of training with school alumni such as recent Worldskills Americas culinary champion Peter Keith.
“The main course is fairly simple,” Kozak says, as is the soup, so dessert is where teams can really show off their skills. Team members hope to give their mousse a modern look with garnishes and ganache.
Paul Kane has twice won silver at this event, Kozak says, so the team’s now gunning for gold. “Time to step it up and see if we can do one better.”
Cupelli says he and his teammates hope to finish in the top six so they get a spot in next year’s event. “If we get in the top three, that’s even better.”
Team Bellerose could not be reached for comment by Friday.
The contest runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Feb. 9 at NAIT’s Hokanson Centre for the Culinary Arts. Winners will be announced March 14 at the event’s award luncheon.