Help 'em, Julia: Aspiring French chefs vie for big break
Santo Saitta prepares his meal from memory. Below, Kendra Watson sautees a chicken. (Photos by Jed Kim)
For the other passengers on the bus, the spilled chicken stock creeping up the aisle this morning was a nuisance. For Vera Dimarco, it was a disaster.
Dimarcos 17-year-old son, Nick, needed the jar of stock for the exquisite cuisine he would be creating in less than two hours, so she turned to her fellow passengers for an answer.
Im actually paying people for a Ziploc bag on the express bus, coming in from Staten Island - Ill give anybody a dollar for a bag, Dimarco said.
Nick, a senior at Tottenville High School in Staten Island, was competing Tuesday in the annual Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) New York Cooking Competition for Scholarships. He and nearly 30 other high school seniors from the city were going to prepare traditional French dishes that they hoped would secure them scholarships of as much as $80,000 for college.
But first, the Dimarcos had to get to the competition.
C-CAP Program Associate, Caryne Hayes, watches the competition. Below, family and friends eagerly watch through the kitchen windows. (Photos by Jed Kim)
Not only did we smell like chicken stock, were trying to save the stuff on the wrong bus, running late, trying to get into Manhattan, said Dimarco.
They jumped into a cab with what was left of their stock and made it to the competition without further incident.
Coming all the way from Staten Island, I made it here in an hour! I am very impressed, said Vera, taking a break from watching her son prepare his dishes.
In the kitchens of the Institute for Culinary Education, Nick and the other students chopped and seared in a frenzy of cooking. For two tense hours, they blanched tomatos, sauteed chicken, and drizzled chocolate onto plates. Eddies of garlic and oil wafted about as they moved from stove to countertop to refrigerator. The only sounds in the room were the tock-tock of their knives and the sizzle of fat in pans the students themselves were silent.
Thats because they had to concentrate on cooking and presenting two dishes hunters chicken with turned, sauteed potatoes and dessert crepes with pastry cream and chocolate sauce. They had only two hours to finish, and they had to do it completely from memory. The students all had plenty of time to prepare, however the same two dishes have been on the menu for each of the 18 years that the competition has run.
Students are judged on their technique, skill, and the taste and presentation of their final dishes. They can win scholarships that range from $500 to $80,000 to attend culinary college. The winners of the competition will be announced at an awards ceremony on April 28.
The Careers through Culinary Arts Program runs the competition as part of its involvement with culinary programs in area high schools.
Culinary arts and home economics take a back seat in high schools, said Suwun Harris, the program manager at C-CAP. And so its a way to support these programs which are so important.
Harris said that shes enjoyed watching the students who take part in her program blossom into chefs. She said that cooking gives them confidence and helps them on their way to successful careers.
Students will go on to postsecondary education, because theyre excited about the possibility of becoming a chef, Harris said.
Nick Dimarco said that he is waiting to learn the results of the competition before he makes a final decision on the culinary college he will attend.
Vera Dimarco said that Nick got his love for cooking from his grandparents and other relatives. Nick joked about his cooking heritage, saying that while the love was passed down, the skill wasnt.
Shell probably kill me, but my moms not really that good of a cook.
-- Jed Kim