Culinary students wow officials at NJAC cook-off

May 31st, 2016

 

NJAC 2016 Cook-off all team picture

Eleven NJ county vocational-technical school teams competed in the 2016 NJAC Cook-off 

Eleven teams of culinary arts students from New Jersey county vocational-technical high schools displayed their extraordinary talents and skills at the New Jersey Association of Counties (NJAC) Cook-Off Challenge on May 20 at Caesars Atlantic City.

ATLANTIC_CITY_NJ_MAY_20: New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools 2016 Cook-Off is on Friday, May 20, 2016, at Caesars Atlantic City in Atlantic City, NJ: Photo: Tom Briglia/ PotoGraphucs

Ocean students with their food truck display

The event concluded NJAC’s 2016 annual meeting, attended by more than 400 freeholders, county executives and other county officials and administrators.

“This is the fifth year NJAC has hosted the cook-off challenge, which has become a feast of flavor and creativity that showcases our talented culinary students with a competition and a fun and delicious lunch for our conference attendees, vendors and other guests,” said NJAC Executive Director John Donnadio.

Burlington students prepping their marinated flank steak

Burlington students prepping their marinated flank steak

“It’s hard to believe, but this event gets better every year and is a highlight of our annual conference.  The students’ skills are amazing and the food they produce is incredible.  Our judges always have very difficult decisions to make,” Donnadio said.

Student teams were required to produce 400 samples of an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre on a budget of $500 or less.  They were also required to create a station display that reflected the food they were serving or another district-related theme.

For several of the teams, students from other career and technical education disciplines within the district – such as carpentry and art – helped plan and build the station displays.

Three panels of judges rated the entries for Gold, Silver and Bronze awards in different categories:

NJAC Judges (representatives of NJAC affiliates and sponsors), who voted for awards in Taste and Station Display).

Judges lining up for Cumberland's short ribs

Judges lining up for Cumberland’s short ribs

Professional Chefs Judges, who voted for awards in Taste and Presentation (which recognized not only plating but also the students’ poise and understanding of the creation and development of their team’s entries).

People’s Choice Judges, which included all NJAC conference attendees, who posted combined scores for taste and station display.

The districts competing in the 2016 Cook-Off and their entries were:

Atlantic County Institute of Technology – Wild Caught Grilled Shrimp with Tomato Cantaloupe Salsa and Basil Sorbet

The competition is underway at Warren's station

The competition is underway at Warren’s station

Burlington County Institute of Technology, Medford Campus – Marinated Flank Steak

Cumberland County Technical Education Center (winner of the 2015 People’s Choice Gold Award, and therefore granted an automatic entry into the 2016 competition) – Black Pepper and Molasses Lacquered Short Ribs

Gloucester County Institute of Technology – Balsamic Honey-Roasted Shredded Pork with Fig Chutney and Whipped Ricotta

Hudson County Schools of Technology – Sous Vide Pork Loin Arepas with BBQ Foam

Monmouth students prepping their day boat scallops

Monmouth students prepping their day boat scallops

Hunterdon County Polytech High School  (home county of the 2016 NJAC president, Freeholder John King) – Milford Farms Pork Belly and Chicken Confit Tostada with Locally-Foraged Ramp Kimchi and Korean BBQ Sauce

Monmouth County Culinary Education Center – Asian Day Boat Scallops served with Sweet Chili Sauce

Ocean County Vocational Technical School, Brick Center – Jersey Shore Lobster Roll with Roasted Corn and Tomato

Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School – Applewood Smoked Scallops with Pears, Mangos and Roasted Poblano Relish

Union students preparing for the competition

Union students preparing for the competition

Union County Vocational & Technical Schools – Artisan Flatbread Taco with Applewood-Smoked Duck Breast Glazed in Honey-Chipotle Sauce and Topped with Chevre, Grilled Corn-Avocado Salsa and Roasted Jalapeno and Cabbage Slaw

Warren County Technical School – Coconut-infused Risotto Pancake topped with Grilled Marinated Shrimp Surrounded by a Mango Coulis and Toasted Macadamia Nuts

The student teams, many of whom had long rides to Atlantic City, arrived by 9:00 a.m. to set up their station displays and begin the prep work for their entries.

Judges sampling Atlantic's grilled shrimp

Judges sampling Atlantic’s grilled shrimp

As the 12:15 p.m. opening time approached, the tension in the room increased as the students prepared for the judging to come.

“One of the things that most impressed our conference attendees this year was how much effort the students devoted to explaining their culinary selections,” Donnadio said.  “They didn’t just serve the entries; they discussed them with everyone who stopped by their stations.

“Our voters were very full at the end of the event, but they got a clear picture of the quality of our county vocational-technical school culinary arts programs and the students who attend them,” he said.

The Hunterdon team inside their station display

The Hunterdon team inside their station display

Here are the awards recipients from the 2016 NJAC Cook-Off:

NJAC JUDGES – Taste
Gold:      Cumberland County Technical Education Center
Silver:    Hunterdon County Polytech High School
Bronze:  Hudson County Schools of Technology

NJAC JUDGES – Station Display
Gold:      Warren County Technical School
Silver:     Union County Vocational & Technical Schools
Bronze:  Hudson County Schools of Technology

PROFESSIONAL CHEFS JUDGES – Taste
Gold:      Cumberland County Technical Education Center
Silver:    Atlantic County Institute of Technology
Bronze:  Tie:  Burlington County Institute of Technology and Hunterdon County Polytech High School

Gloucester students prepping their Balsamic honey roasted shredded pork

Gloucester students prepping their Balsamic honey roasted shredded pork

PROFESSIONAL CHEFS JUDGES – Presentation
Gold:       Cumberland County Technical Education Center
Silver:     Tie:  Hunterdon County Polytech High School and Union County Vocational & Technical Schools
Bronze:   Burlington County Institute of Technology

PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARDS (combined score for taste and station display)
Gold:    Cumberland County Technical Education Center
Silver:  Hunterdon County Polytech High School
Bronze:  Ocean County Vocational Technical School

“The New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools is very grateful to NJAC for initiating this competition and continuing to sponsor it every year as part of the NJAC annual conference,” said NJCCVTS executive director Judy Savage.

Somerset students prep their smoked scallops entry

Somerset students prep their smoked scallops entry

“It’s a great opportunity for our county officials, who provide so much support for our schools, to see the professional quality programs our schools provide and outstanding students who succeed through them,” she said.

In the 2017 competition, two counties will have automatic entries:

Cumberland, the winner of the 2016 People’s Choice Gold Award, and Gloucester, the home county of the expected 2017 NJAC president, Freeholder Heather Simmons.

The other nine participating districts will be determined by a lottery held at the NJAC annual reorganization meeting in late January, 2017.

ATLANTIC_CITY_NJ_MAY_20: New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools 2016 Cook-Off is on Friday, May 20, 2016, at Caesars Atlantic City in Atlantic City, NJ: Photo: Tom Briglia/ PotoGraphucs

Hudson County students prepping their Sous Vide Pork Loin Arepas

 

The New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools would like to thank the dedicated staff members at NJAC and Caesars, whose work throughout the year makes this competition such a great experience for our students and our schools.

 

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