A team of students from the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute participated and won the annual American Culinary Federations regional Student Culinary Competition in Las Vegas the weekend of Feb. 2-3.
Representing the state of Oregon in the competition the OCCI students won the gold, which qualifies them to move on to the national competition in Orlando, Fla.
“This year we had five states represented, and we came out on top,” said Chef Randy Torres, executive director of OCCI. “The success comes from our hard work. All of these students on the team put in a tremendous amount of hours to prepare for this.”
The competition consisted of two major trials. The first was kitchen skills, and the second is a meal made for a panel of four judges within an hour and a half time limit.
“The first part of the competition really monitors the competitors on their cooking skills, from butchery, to vegetable cutting and pastry work. Then the second part is a four course tasting menu. They have to develop a menu that fits the criteria of the competition, and they have to use all the ingredients that they fabricated in the skills section,” Torres said.
The OCCI students began their four-course meal with a classic dish called Sol Veronique.
“The second course we did what we called a beet expression, which is a salad focused around different preparations of beet. So, it had beets shown in all different fashions with some greenery and all the things you would expect with a salad,” Torres said
For the entrée, the students prepared what they called a royal chicken. It was a chicken dish that featured a number of high-end ingredients like Oregon truffles, and foie gras.
“Our dessert was a chocolate banana dessert. It had a chocolate mousse with a variety of different styles of banana. It had a marinated baby banana on the outside, and a roasted banana in the middle with a pomegranate sauce,” Torres said.
One team member, Marissa Brazell, said that it was amazing to get the opportunity to compete against other schools and to work with her peers as a team.
“It was a really neat experience to get to go and compete, and I’m excited to get to go and do it again at nationals,” Brazell said.
Another team member, Vicki White, fills a support role in for the team. She helps with set-up and background work for the team
“We have a great team. We all work very well together, but we’re also really good friends outside of this. There’s a really strong bond between the team members and how we communicate,” White said.
Leading up to the competition, students on the team would begin their days at 4 a.m. to train and prepare.
One of the things that Torres has already begun to impress upon the team is that they will have to work even harder if they hope to be successful in the national competition.
“The students will have to work harder, more time, more effort and more fundraising,” Torres said.
It is important to note that the students fundraise collectively to pay for travel costs for these competitions.
OCCI has made it to the ACF’s national competition three times before, and has won at the national level once.
“I’m very confident in this group, and I’m confident in what they can achieve. I think that they’re all up for the challenge,” Torres said.