They diced, sliced, sautéed and seared and in the end, the culinary students at Pitman High School had cooked up a three-course meal that earned them a victory in the annual Iron Chef competition.
The Iron Chef competition sees the two culinary arts programs from Pitman and Turlock high schools face off in a test of cooking skills to see which cuisine proves the tastiest to the panel of judges. Scholarship money and the Iron Chef trophy with a year's bragging rights are on the line.
The teams are comprised of the high school principal from each school and four culinary arts students. The teams are lead by the culinary arts instructors from each school, who can provide encouragement and suggestions, but cannot do any of the preparations. The students on the runner up team get scholarships of $250 each, while the winning team gets $500 scholarships for each student on the team.
The teams are selected by the culinary instructors, who look for students that show skill in the kitchen and a certain level of dedication.
“For me, I look for students who do really good in class, and show the potential and desire to continue on in the culinary field,” said THS Culinary Arts Instructor Robert Sheets.
The PHS team was comprised of students Kimberly Cervantes, James Insell, Logan Rabenburg, Rachel San Jose, Principal Angela Freeman and Culinary Arts Instructor Mohini Singh.
On the THS team were students Andre Ford, Faith Hernandez, Alan McPherson, Jacinto Revuelta, Principal Gabe Ontiveros, and led by Sheets.
The judges this year were Turlock Unified School District Superintendent Dana Salles Trevethan, Turlock City Councilwoman Nicole Larson, Jose Cortes from Toscana’s at the Tower, George Kosmas from Crust and Crumb and Steve Backus from Red Brick Bar and Grill.
Each team had to create an Italian themed dinner with an appetizer, beverage, entree and dessert.
Pitman made an appetizer of preserved tomato bruschetta atop sourdough crostini. The entree was an Italian braised short rib over creamy polenta with sautéed Portobello mushrooms. Dessert was a classic tiramisu with an Italian cream soda.
Turlock’s menu featured an appetizer of caprese stuffed avocados and an entree of Scottadito lamb chop with polenta and roasted asparagus. Dessert was a chocolate anise cannoli with an Italian cream soda. They also made a lavender peach gelato as a palate cleanser.
The panel judged each course on taste, appearance, aroma, uniqueness of the menu, and the overall presentation.
“The food was phenomenal,” said Kosmas. “It was very, very close. I think it came down to just a couple of points on the appetizer that put them [Pitman] on top.”