Pirates Battle the Fog in the Fog City and Capture Gold in State Championship
Battling adverse weather, mechanical difficulties and the eight intensely critical eyes of the judges the Orange Coast College student Hot Food Team took first place overall and earned a gold medal at the American Culinary Federation’s California State Championship held at the Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco on Saturday Feb 7.
Team members Adrian Almanza (Santa Ana), Annette Alvarado (Anaheim), Zack Evans (Westminster), Lauren Lopez (Garden Grove) and Elizabeth Mendoza (Santa Ana) competed in the grueling event earning the victory against five other students teams including ACF Student Team, San Francisco (2nd, Silver) Arts Institute San Diego (3rd Silver) Arts Institute Inland Empire (4th Bronze), Le Cordon Bleu San Francisco (5th Bronze) Arts Institute Hollywood (6th Bronze). Medals are awarded on a points basis and first place goes to the team with the highest point total. All of the OCC students are representing their local ACF Chapter called the Orange Empire Chef’s Association.
Teams are scrutinized by a panel of four A.C.F. certified judges including a “certified master-chef” and a pastry judge. The competition is broken down into two phases. In phase one basic skills are picked at random then demonstrated under a strict time constraint. Fish butchery, chicken butchery, specific vegetable cuts and established pastry skills are to be completed under 80 minutes or teams lose points. The OCC team was the first team to finish, the majority of the teams finishing late. Teams have 90 minutes for cooking and service in Phase two which is cooking of a four course meal for four portions. One course is a predetermined dish from the Escoffier Cookbook (a classical French cooking bible of sorts) while the other three courses are up to the team to develop (see menu at the end of this article). This year’s classic dish was Poulet Saute a la Bourguignonne (a chicken dish with red wine, pearl onions, bacon and mushrooms).
Chef Bill Barber (team coach, manager, and culinary professor at OCC) explained that the team had a few hurdles getting to the event from Costa Mesa, “Well, we knew that a huge storm was forecast to hit northern California, but I don’t think we were quite ready for the intensity of it all. A minor glitch happened when our battery died in the cargo truck, but we were able to get that taken care of pretty quickly. We were mostly soaked when we finally got to the event and a little shocked to find that our equipment carts inside the cargo truck had somehow opened up and spilled equipment and some food items everywhere. Luckily, we had everything individually wrapped and the food was iced so the only things damaged were our nerves.” The team wasted no time in getting everything back in order and spent a long day on Saturday cooking, receiving critiques from the panel of judges and of course cleaning up.
The OCC team has been practicing since late September, arriving at 6:00am each Friday and spending 8-10 hours in the kitchen. Just after the New Year, the practice schedule doubled to twice a week. The day of the competition students are exposed to networking with other students and get to receive feedback from highly accomplished chefs. Team Captain and OCC student Annette Alvarado, explained that she learned a lot from the critiques and the judges input, “It’s great to hear the things that the judges liked about our food but it’s hard to hear the things that the judges didn’t like. I know they are helping us learn but these guys chose a kind of “tough love” approach. I realized that, after they announced us as the winning team and then the judges were all smiles and hugs.”
The Team now travels to compete at the Regional event which will be held in Las Vegas on March 20 and 21st. The Regional competition promises to be even more intense as teams have refined their menu and skill. What does Barber think of braving northern California’s big storm and participating in this competition? “Words like tempestuous, tumultuous, even harrowing come to mind’¦and then we went outside the kitchen and had to deal with the weather.”
Herbed Baked Branzino, White Wine Sauce
Sauteed Butternut Squash, Corn
Squash and Corn Filled Pasta (Casoncelli )
Shrimp, Mousseline of Branzino
Mache, Frisee, Baby Red Oak Herb Vinaigrette
Marinated Haricot Verts
Fried Green Tomato, Boursin
Cherry Tomato-Celery Leaves
Egg, Olive, Caper Salad and “Devilled” Yolk
Celery-seed Lavash Cracker
Poulet Saute a la Bourguignonne
Choux de Bruxelles au Gratin
Pomme de terre Chateau
Apple Almond Tart, Vanilla-Cherry Ice Cream, Crunchy Almond Cookie
Macerated Fruit, Cherry Sauce