There wasn’t a lot of time. Just nine school days after meeting in the culinary classroom at brand-new Harlan High School, a team of students and their teacher spent a Saturday morning taking part in a “Top Chef” style competition at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).
Northside was one of six school districts to compete in the first Go Public Back-to-School Cook-off. Teams were comprised of two students, a culinary teacher, and either a superintendent or school board member. Harlan HS students Yaheidy Anaya, Destinee Mosley (and alternate Camille Johnston), and culinary teacher David La Boy were joined by Superintendent Dr. Brian Woods.
Teams were given one hour to prepare food and plate it for a panel of judges. They were required to use certain ingredients – flat iron steak, cucumber, and fingerling potatoes – but the rest of the menu was up to them to create.
Paired mainly with Mosley, Woods was responsible for chopping ingredients like potatoes, onions, and basil.
“I brought marginal cooking skills and I was assigned very appropriate tasks,” Woods said.
“It was really fun, but yeah a little scary telling the superintendent what to do,” Mosley said. “My favorite part was working with him and I could tell he was having fun too. I think we did pretty well.”
During the timed event, the NISD team confidently gathered ingredients, sheet pans and platters, and set up their station amidst the vast CIA cooking kitchen space. They divided the work, each preparing specific parts of the meal from the sauce, to the meat, to the vegetables.
Though they took the challenge seriously, the NISD team wanted to have fun and enjoy their first experience working together as a team.
They did have to adjust their plans as the clock was ticking down – finishing the meat and potatoes on the stove top when the oven wasn’t fast enough.
“What’s amazing is how fast an hour goes,” Woods said. “It was an exciting last five minutes as we were sprinting to get the food plated and they’re counting us down.”
The final menu for the Northside team was stuffed flat iron steak with herb-roasted potatoes, roasted vegetables, and a creamy avocado and cucumber sauce.
While waiting for the judges to deliberate, La Boy told his team, “For knowing you students for nine days, that was pretty impressive. I’m really looking forward to this year.”
Culinary Arts is just one area of study offered to Northside ISD high school students through NISD’s Career and Technical Education Department. Students are also able to earn industry-recognized certifications through their coursework.
Ultimately judges awarded the NISD team second place but the experience for the students was more than just a competition. Stepping into the impressive Culinary Institute kitchens, even just for a couple of hours, was a special opportunity. “It shows me what I’m going to do in my future,” Mosley said.
Visit the Northside ISD Facebook page for an album of pictures from the event.