Thirteen students from Northern Lebanon High School in Pennsylvania are set to compete in the “Cook Around the World” culinary competition at the World Showplace Pavilion in EPCOT at the Walt Disney World Resort on April 30. Split into two teams, the students will compete against more than 20 other teams in a hands-on culinary challenge similar to an Iron Chef competition, where they will have just 90 minutes to research, prepare and cook a signature and side dish that represents an assigned continent using ingredients from a “surprise” basket containing a protein and a vegetable/starch that they will need to utilize. They must prepare 12 appetizer-sized portions for judging and will be judged based on serving method and presentation; flavor, taste, and texture; menu and ingredients compatibility; and if the dish is representative of the continent. Award categories include an Overall Competition Best, Overall Regional Best, and Judges Awards.
Getting the students ready for this challenge is Chef Rob Best, the general manager for FM Top 50 firm Metz Culinary Management at Northern Lebanon School District.
“This opportunity has been very exciting for all of the students,” Best says. “I’m proud of the strong partnership between Metz Culinary Management and the Northern Lebanon School District. It’s wonderful to see the collaboration helping to advance the future of our students.”
All of the students are being trained in knife skills, including breaking down and deboning a whole chicken, cleaning and fileting a whole fish, and trimming and cutting down a beef and pork loin. To assist them, Metz presented each with a new nine-piece knife set as a gift to help them better prepare.
In addition to working on breaking down all of the possible proteins that may be in the basket, Best has been training them on the importance of kitchen safety, as well as recipe development and menu creativity. He’s stressing the value of thinking outside of the box and being highly creative with the pantry options available, he says. The Northern Lebanon students have been assigned Asia as their continent for cuisine, and Best is guiding them in experimenting with different flavor combinations to create a truly unique signature dish.
“It’s great to see so many young people take an interest in cooking,” Best offers. “This experience is providing our students with a much better appreciation of what a career in culinary arts might entail. It’s important that they fully understand all of the education, training, and career options available to them. I wouldn’t be surprised if participating in this competition encourages a few to pursue a culinary career. We would definitely welcome the young talent.”