While there were no winners announced at the Future Chefs competition, which took place earlier this month at Boston University, it was the perfect opportunity for aspiring student chefs to showcase their skills to culinary professionals who served as judges.
Under the watchful eye of judge Julia Shanks of Interactive Cuisine, Craig Jackson, 17, a senior at Quincy High School, meticulously removed the fat from a chicken. He would later use the bird in an entree.
Working under similar scrutiny, senior Chris Gomes, 17, prepared an assortment of ingredients as chef Kevin Crawley looked on.
"This guy’s looking good'' said Crawley, of the Coriander Bistro in Sharon. "Handsome and smart. He’s gonna win.''
And while there were no winners announced at the Future Chefs competition, which took place earlier this month at Boston University, it was the perfect opportunity for aspiring student chefs to showcase their skills to culinary professionals who served as judges.
After all, these kids could be working for them in the near future.
When the Careers through Culinary Arts Program, C-CAP for short, a national nonprofit organization that works to provide culinary students with scholarships, left the Boston area, Toni Elka took it upon herself to "fill the void.''
Elka founded Future Chefs in fall 2007 not only to provide scholarships and apprenticeships, but to focus on youth development and to equip young chefs with the "soft skills'' they will need in their careers.
"Our goal is to identify talented inner-city kids with the potential to excel in our industry and give them the opportunities that they may not have normally,'' Elka said.
Quincy’s Gomes and Jackson were two of the 17 student chefs involved in the day’s cook-off at Boston University, which was the final round in the program.
Competing seniors, hailing from six Greater Boston high schools, were asked to prepare a chicken saute Provencale with a tuile cup dessert and pastry cream from memory, and design and present the dishes however they chose.
Practice for the event mostly took place after school and on weekends, said Patrick Noe, chef instructor for Quincy High School.
"I’ve given my two kids some products to take home and prepare for Mom and Dad,'' he said before the event. "Whatever it takes.''
As the seniors cooked, juniors from the participating schools were invited to take part in a few workshops and tour the kitchen in the heat of the competition.
"I thought it was going to be a lot more intense,'' said Quincy junior Marykate Delaney, 17. "It’s kind of relieving though because I’m doing it next year.''
The seniors manning their stoves and stations may have begged to differ.
"The nervous factor comes in now, but they’ve done it so many times,'' Noe said of his two chefs as he snapped photos for the school.
The judges also didn’t shy from offering encouragement, as they took notes and assisted the competing chefs when necessary.
"Make good food and if it takes you 20 minutes, so be it,'' Crawley assured Gomes after the four-minute warning was called.
By noon, almost all of chefs’ entrees and desserts were ready for the judges. The seniors were asked to clean their stations before meeting with their assigned judge to receive feedback.
"I don’t want to say anything yet. I don’t want to jinx myself,'' Gomes said. "I think I did ... swell.''
Judge George Kelly with Bunker Hill Community College had encouraging comments for his particular group of chefs.
"You came back and just nailed it,'' he said to Jackson.
Seniors will find out how they fared during the event at an awards dinner in Roxbury tonight.
Awards include scholarships to Johnson & Wales and Bunker Hill colleges.
The Patriot Ledger