Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Final Taste Test

            On Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 at Sugartree Ministries in Wilmington, Ohio the student chefs of the culinary class chopped their last vegetables, cooked their last meat dishes, and plated their last meals together as a culinary class.  Of course, this will only be the start of the culinary careers for each of the students and they will quite possibly cook many future meals together as friends and colleagues rather than students in the same class.  The eight student chefs involved with the culinary class include: Ashlie Cundiff, John Porter, Charlene McCoppin, Mike Rickman, Michelle Addison, David Hawthorne, Jessica Morris, and Chris Green from Sodexo.

Students final creations.

            For their final test of skill and mastery of their lessons, Chef Tom Tiner, chef of Sodexo of Wilmington College, prepared a mystery basket for each student.  The goal of the students was to then prepare two identical plates of food using each ingredient in the mystery basket as well as any ingredients from the pantry that Chef Tom provided for them.  The mystery baskets included a meat of either: salmon or beef, a starch or either: potato, sweet potato, rice, or cornmeal, a fruit of either: papaya or mango, and two vegetables of either: carrot, zucchini, acorn squash or poblano pepper.  Some baskets included an additional ingredient of rice paper wrappers just to throw the chefs for a loop.  The pantry was stocked with various seasoning and sauces as well as couscous, another type of rice, and soba noodles, a Japanese noodle.  The chefs were then allowed to trade a like item from their basket such as a vegetable for a vegetable or a starch for a starch, but the chefs had to keep their meat.  They could also swap like items in the pantry or use additional ingredients from the pantry. The students each had three hours to cook and to plate.  The food was then critiqued by Chef Tom and Robbie Ross of Sodexo.  The food was then shared among the student chefs and guests of the class.  Finally, the chefs cleaned up the kitchen.

Student Mike Rickman prepares his final dish.

            Once the chefs started cooking their meals, it was clear that very few of the eight student chefs knew what they were going to prepare, but there was no time to lose.  The chefs began preparation right away and developed their meals as they worked.  The meals ranged from a home-style pot roast to salmon sushi.  The creativity and skills of the students were clearly represented in each of their dishes. 

Culinary Student, Ashlie Cundiff, prepares her salmon sushi rolls.

            Upon sampling the food Chef Tom and Robbie had many things to say about the food.  Overall, Chef Tom complimented everyone’s dishes, “excellent job everybody.” Ross thought the “meat on [Charlene’s plate] is very well-cooked.” Chef Tom, “love[d] colors” of Jessica’s dish.  He thought that the puree [was] awesome. Nothing exciting about the potatoes,” and he “absolutely love [mango salsa].” Ross felt that Chris’s dish was “very nice.  Creative.  Don’t get much heat from chipotle. [Vegetables] could use a little bite to it.”  Except for a few minor suggestions from the critics, the food received rave reviews from all those that sampled it.

Chef Tom Tiner and Guest judge, Robbie Ross judge the student's work.

After the food was shared about the students and those present, Chef Tom and Janet Renshaw, the general manager of Sodexo, provided each student with a toolbox filled with culinary tools including: knives, vegetable peelers, and measuring cups among other things.  The students will be able to use these items as they start their culinary careers.

Students say thanks for their new toolboxes.

            The culinary class would like to share a special thanks to: Chef Tom Tiner, Janet Renshaw, and Robbie Ross from Sodexo, Allen Willoughby and all those at Sugartree Ministries who allowed the chefs-in-training to use the kitchen, the Cincinnati Art Institute, Weather Vane Dry Cleaners, Wilmington College’s Grow Food Grow Hope VISTAs and Summer Associates who assisted week-to-week, Ace Hardware for the generous gift of toolboxes upon graduation, their friends and family, and anyone else who have donated time, money, or items to make the culinary class possible. 
            As they start their culinary journey, at least two of the chefs have budding plans to open their own restaurants and many of the students have similar plans.  Whatever path the chefs may find themselves on later in life, it can be certain that they will always have food close to their hearts…and in their stomachs.

To see what their families had to say about the class check out this video by our own Summer Associate Volunteer, Ryan Shunk.

For more photos about the Culinary Job Training Class please see our album on Facebook.  For questions or if you're interested in learning more about the class and its future please contact Jessica Braun at Grow Food Grow Hope ext 306.

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