New Culinary Students Cut Teeth in Burger Showdown
Students of Chamberlain High School's Culinary Arts Academy faced off on Tuesday in a "Chopped" style hamburger showcase.
The creativity and skill of prospective students entering Chamberlain high school's Culinary Operations Academy was on display Tuesday as students competed in a "Chopped Burger Showdown" judged by representatives from EventFest Tampa Bay, organizers of Burger Showdown Tampa Bay.
Chef Erik Youngs, head instructor of the COA, served as a judge at the city wide event for Friends of the Riverwalk earlier this year, something his students were excited about. To bring that excitement into the academy, Youngs and company decided to create a burger cook off of their own.
"I judged the EventFest event, so I made them come out and do it for us," Youngs said. "The kids were really excited about it and did a great job. This is a good way to prepare, because this group is going to serve 150 people on Thursday from the Hillsborugh County School Board."
Using connections Youngs has made throughout his own career in the restaurant industry, he invited in chefs from Johnson and Wales University and BGR The Burger Joint in Carrollwood to help coach the teams through the cooking process and help them make an original burger.
"I became a cook after high school and I wish I would have had a program like this because I might be further along in my career," BGR Chef David Gonzalez said. "It's cool to be able to talk with the kids and share with them a little bit about the lifestyle of this business and encourage them to move toward cooking. People always have to eat."
After winning fan favorite at Burger Showdown Tampa Bay, Gonzalez was able to share some useful contest advice with the students as they prepared to wow the judges.
"I just told them it's all about presentation and don't worry about quanitity," Gonzalez said. "They started to understand that flavor is just as important as anything else."
For the judges from EventFest, the most suprising aspect was the quality of the burgers made by students so new to the academy. Judging the burgers was not easy, but certain flavors were certainly favored.
"I like spicy stuff, cheese and sauce so if you had that on your burger you got my vote," EventFest judge Ashley Derrick said. "The burgers were all amazing though and it's really nice for us to see that an event we created with our Burger Showdown is inspiring an event that the kids are enjoying like this."
About half of the contest's 40 participants are incoming freshman into the Culinary Operations Academy. Brian Paolucci, Culinary Demonstrator from Johnson and Wales University was on hand to share his knowledge with the students and to see what COA's fresh crop of cooks has to offer.
"They all had a good eye," Paolucci said. "They're still learning temperatures and getting how to cook with certain ingredients but this is great for them. This is a great set up for all types of success in their lives. This type of event was really effective in opening their senses to what it takes to build a satisfying meal and how the pressure is going to be in the kitchen."
For Youngs, the event is the beginning of a week long camp designed to get students back into the swing of things before the school year starts.
"This is a great way to bring our ninth graders in and introduce them to our academy," Youngs said. "We don't want them to be lost when they come in, we want them to have a connection already with the academy staff. Since we got our model academy status, we are truly a school within the school."