The culinary arts students and their chef/instructors worked for weeks, planning, creating and perfecting their entries, presentation skills and table decorations.
And when the doors opened for the New Jersey Association of Counties Vocational-Technical Schools Cook-Off, they were standing proudly in their chef uniforms, ready to compete for awards in taste, creativity, presentation and table display.
Teams of high school students from seven county vocational-technical schools participated in the event, held at the New Jersey Association of Counties 2012 Conference at Bally’s in Atlantic City.
Each team was required to prepare 400 samples of an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre that would be tasted by the conference attendees and panels of judges representing NJAC representatives and chefs from the Atlantic City casino/hotels.
Teams were also required to decorate their stations with a theme that reflected the region of the state in which they were located.
The Monmouth team’s station featured sand and seashells, while the Atlantic team presented a colorful display of locally-grown produce. The Warren team’s design highlighted historic sites in their county.
A six-foot-tall lighthouse built by students dominated the Cumberland station, while the Mercer team created an edible scale model of the famous “Trenton Makes” Bridge from pastillage, a dough made with powdered sugar, gelatin, corn syrup and cornstarch.
The competition was intense, and the entries were extraordinary:
Atlantic – Seared Scallops with Jersey Fresh Asparagus and Tomato and Cucumber Salad
Cumberland – The Ship John Shooter (a Port Norris oyster with a corn, cucumber and tomato salsa and a peach chaser)
Gloucester – Roasted Pork Shoulder with Peach Blueberry Chutney, Topped with a Lime Cream and Cilantro Sprig
Mercer – Green Apple and Caramelized Onion Chicken Galantine, with Red Onion Marmalade and Stone-Ground Champagne Mustard, Accompanied by Endive with Goat Cheese and Dried Cherries Served with an Oak-Aged Mosto Cotto
Monmouth – Coconut Curry Shrimp with Thai Rice Noodle Salad
Ocean – Crawfish Branded Galette
Warren – Pork Carnitas
NJAC Conference attendees were extremely impressed. As they walked from station to station sampling the entries, they all commented on how delicious the food was and how articulate and informed the student presenters were. And they also had a lot of fun doing it.
While the voting was extremely close in every category, the following awards were presented:
People’s Choice: Gold – Atlantic; Silver – Gloucester; Bronze – Cumberland.
AC Chefs Judges Panel: Taste – Mercer; Presentation – Cumberland; Creativity – Cumberland.
NJAC Judges Panel: Taste – Gloucester; Creativity – Cumberland; Table Display – 3-way tie, Monmouth, Mercer and Cumberland.