It takes practice, planning and some deep breaths to get a complete meal in front of four tasting judges in under three hours. Think appetizer, salad, entree, side dish and dessert.
That’s what seven area high school teams did on March 25 during the ninth annual Platinum Chef Team Challenge in Red Bud. The three Best of Competition teams this year, in order, were defending champ Marissa, first-timer Edwardsville and Red Bud.
Other awards went to Columbia for best written test score, best oral presentation of dishes and team member Kaylee Bastien as Best Presenter.
Belleville West made the best appetizer, while Belleville East created the best entree.
Another first-timer, Christ Our Savior Lutheran High School in Evansville, won with best salad and team member Rebekah Laufer was the competition’s MVP.
Red Bud took home the award for best dessert and Edwardsville garnered wins for Best Utility/Support Team and Best Table Presentation.
Each team had five students cooking, two helping with washing dishes and cleanup, and very limited access to their instructor to seek advice. And while they brought their own equipment and supplies, teams didn’t know what food they would be using until they arrived. So, menus were created on the spot, using cookbooks and tablets. They arrived at 8:15 a.m. and had about three hours to prepare with staggered starts.
And while sauteeing, dicing and plating were on students’ minds, each had to also take a written test and be scrutinized by sanitation judges as they worked. Four tasting judges considered plate appearance, temperature, execution of idea or recipe, most innovative use of ingredients and overall taste.
The event is sponsored by the Monroe-Randolph Regional Office of Education, Okaw Regional Vocation System and Southwestern Illinois College. Red Bud High School’s gym each year is turned into “Kitchen Stadium,” for the teams. It deserves special kudos for all the technical work of running electrical cable and surge protectors for the kitchen equipment, setting up and arranging tables and numerous other necessities that make the event run smoothly each year.