Frenzied chopping and frantic peeling hit the cutting boards as students bid for a grand prize of $1,000.
Dacyion Reid, a first year Culinary Management student, emerged as the winner of the finals of the Youth Culinary Talent’s (YOCUTA). The theme was “Trendy Twists for a Healthy Dish.”
“I’m actually surprised and I feel good, some money in my pocket. It’s my first time competing,” said Reid on her victory.
Her winning dish was cilantro-lime shrimp with cauliflower rice.
“I essentially wanted something healthy and trendy,” Reid said. “I thought cauliflower rice, that’s trendy. Avocado and just shrimp for a little more protein.”
Reid was one of three competitors. The others were Samantha Simms, a second year Baking and Pastry Arts student, and Lais Donella, a second year Nutrition student.
Donella placed second with a bean patty with tabbouleh salad. Simms’ dish was a ginger thyme bulgur pilaf.
Each student had to include a base or flavour concentrate from the competition partner, Nestlé Minor’s, which specializes in sauces and liquid flavours. And they had to make do with ingredients and cookware supplied by the college.
Greg Howe, a culinary instructor and one of the cookoff’s organizers, said the three competitors were chosen from a larger pool of students who submitted recipes to a selection committee.
“That’s actually where the selection process took place,” he said.
“All the recipes were sent in and the selection committee took a look at all the recipes and picked the three that seemed to best fit in with ‘Trendy Twists for a Healthy Dish,’” Howe said.
He says cooking is a life skill everyone should have as, theoretically, people cook every day.
“There’re students that take culinary that decide they don’t want to do it and they think they wasted their time. But I say, ‘You know what, you haven’t wasted your time,’” Howe said.
“It’s not like they were taking welding and decided after a year of welding, they didn’t want to do it, and when are you ever going to weld again necessarily,” he said.
Howe said cooking should be more of a focus in schools.
“Maybe healthy cooking should be taught in Grade Six and in Grade Seven, and teach kids how utilize fruits and vegetables, and vegetable proteins and cook healthy meals,” he said. “Maybe that will solve some of the problems of so much unhealthy eating that goes on with young people and with adults.
“Let’s face it, everybody eats junk food, right?” he said.
Howe also said the School of Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism has numerous partnerships with companies in the industry like Nestlé.
“We bring them in, showcase their product, and our students can win some money,” he said. “That’s why we do it, to strengthen our relationship with industry and the partners that we have and to expose our students to things they may not necessarily get to see.”
Brandon Primozic, the assistant marketing manager at Nestlé, says the YOCUTA program is an opportunity to invest in the development and support of young culinary talents. With this program they can educate, involve, and gain experience for students looking to enter the culinary field.
There was a mishap halfway through the competition as two of the induction burners lost power, causing a delay in the cooking.
Rick Secko, a corporate chef for Nestlé, said that reflected the realities of working in a kitchen.
“It comes out a lot within the cooking industry that inevitably something is going to happen that might throw you off your game. And how you react toward those things, that shows you how to succeed,” he said.
Many students gathered to watch the competition, finding it to be a relief from all their studying.
“Yeah, it’s good to see, the college is all books, we only see books,” said Navjot Kaur, a first year Business Management student. “This is a good thing that’s different. Even I didn’t know there were other courses like this, like baking and pastry.”