ATLANTIC CITY — The 8th Annual County Vocational-Technical School Cook-Off Challenge took place on May 10 during the New Jersey Association of Counties conference in Atlantic City.
This year’s event at Caesars drew 11 teams from throughout the state to battle it out for the top honors, which for the first time this year included scholarship money for students to continue their education in the culinary arts after graduating from high school.
“It just gets better and better every single year,” said John G. Donnadio, the executive director of NJAC. “The students are just incredibly talented. It’s really the showcase of our event.”
Students are evaluated in different categories. NJAC members judge two categories: taste and station display. Professional chefs judge on award on taste and presentation. Then all conference attendees vote on their favorite dish, known as the “People’s Choice” award. More than 100 conference attendees voted, the highest vote tally in eight years.
For the first time, the school teams winning the People’s Choice awards will receive scholarship money from NJAC, with a $1,000 scholarship for the top winner, $500 for second place and $250 for third place.
“It’s not a lot of money, but it’s a way we wanted to show our appreciation for the winning schools,” Donnadio said.
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Cumberland County Technical Education Center, which prepared a beef brisket in a crispy corn tortilla with jalapeno relish and avocado crema, took home the People’s Choice Award. Bergen County Technical Schools – Paramus Campus took second and Passaic County Technical Institute took third.
Ocean County Vocational Technical School – Brick Center, which prepared a miniature Ramen bowl, took first place in the taste category as judged by NJAC members. Cumberland County took second and Bergen County took third.
The professional chefs awarded Union County Vocational-Technical Schools the top prize for taste followed by Bergen County and Cumberland County. Union prepared a shrimp ceviche served on sweet potato polenta with leche de tigre.
For food presenation, the professional chefs awarded Sussex County Technical School first place for its braised Eastern quail roulade served on a wild rice cake with port wine reduction. Union County took second and Hudson County Schools of Technology – High Tech High took third.
Station display top prize went to Sussex County for its farmstand followed by Passaic and Essex County Schools of Technology – West Caldwell Campus.
This year’s participants and their dishes:
Bergen County Technical Schools – Paramus Campus
Mayan Rice Ball with braised pork, spicy sauce & pickled red onions
Cumberland County Technical Education Center
Beef Brisket served in a crispy corn tortilla with jalapeno relish and avocado crema
Essex County Schools of Technology – West Caldwell Campus
Broad Street Pulled Pork Italiano Bite nestled in a Philly fry onion nest & served with broccoli rabe
Hudson County Schools of Technology – High Tech High
Hive Tech Honey Siracha Glazed Duck “Cone-Fit”
Mercer County Technical Schools
Monmouth County Vocational Education Center
Avocado Toast with Tuna Poke & Lobster
Morris County Vocational School District
Ocean County Vocational Technical School – Brick Center
Miniature Ramen Bowl
Passaic County Technical Institute
Short Rib Voulevant
Sussex County Technical School
Braised Eastern Quail Roulade served on a wild rice cake with port wine reduction
Union County Vocational-Technical Schools
Shrimp Ceviche served on sweet potato polenta with leche de tigre