Chefs Help Students Prep For State Competition

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Courtesy photo

Payson High School student Justin Richardson grills up grilled pork loin with herb gnocchi in the Arizona Culinary Institute’s kitchen with mentor Chef Glenn Humphrey.

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Courtesy photo

. PHS student chef Brett Goodwin works on his dish for the student chef of the year competition in the Art Institute of Phoenix’s kitchen.

Ever pick up a menu and wonder what gnocchi is? How about chippelini or broccolini?

You probably scratched your head and wondered who came up with these descriptions and why use them. (In short, it’s little dumplings, a type of onion and a green vegetable similar to broccoli.)

Well, you can blame the culinary chefs. It’s not that they want to confuse us, it’s just that they work on a higher echelon of food preparation and appreciation.

Ask Payson High School student Justin Richardson what he is preparing to make for the high-level statewide culinary competition later this month and he’ll tell you: grilled pork loin with herb gnocchi, broccolini, cippolini onions and tomato vinaigrette.

Richardson said he picked the culinary lingo up while working at Gerardo’s Italian Bistro.

“It sounds nicer,” he explained.

Student chef, Brett Goodwin, who is also competing, said he prefers a simpler sounding menu. He plans to prepare a pork loin, sweet potato mash, cherry-flavored pan sauce, pecan garnish and asparagus.

Both teens are working hard to perfect their recipes hoping they will be named U.S. Foodservice Student Chef of the Year, which is sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation.

Last year, the top five juniors in the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program were asked to compete for the title of chef of the year. PHS is the only high school in Arizona to have two students place in the top 10.

In preparation for the big event, the students have been working with culinary arts teacher Devon Wells on their recipes.

Wells even threw in a lesson on watermelon carving for fun several weeks ago. Although she admits neither teen will probably use carving in their presentation, she said it is a good skill to learn, especially if either teen planned to be a garde manger or cold chef. Other students in Wells’ culinary arts program also participated in carving.

Goodwin and Richardson have also been getting individual tutoring from two chefs in the Valley. Richardson has been working with Chef Glenn Humphrey at the Arizona Culinary Institute Institute and Goodwin with Chef Francine Marz at the Art Institute of Phoenix.

The teens have visited with their chefs at least a half dozen times. First, to create their menu and then to cook it — over and over and over again — until it is perfect.

Richardson said he first picked up a cooking utensil at the age of 6. One of his first dishes was a Thanksgiving pie and his first mentor was his father, who worked in food service.

His second culinary mentor was Gerardo Moceri. Since starting at his restaurant, Richardson has moved up from salads to the hot food line. His favorite thing to cook is the restaurant’s wood oven pizza.

“He’s (Moceri) taught me to keep it simple,” he said of cooking.

One day, Richardson said he would like to open his own Italian steakhouse. However, before that, he plans to attend Johnson and Wales University in Colorado. It costs at least $82,000 to attend for four years and Richardson hopes he picks up a few cooking scholarships.

Goodwin, 17, got his start cooking at a young age with his mother.

“At 8 I knew what my career path was,” he said. “I just knew I would do it.”

Because he lives in Tonto Basin, where there are a limited number of restaurants, Goodwin does most of his cooking at home. Even without restaurant experience, Goodwin has already had several recipes published and won cooking awards. He hopes to go to culinary school and one day open a fine dining or dinner theater restaurant.

The chef of the year competition will take place at the East Valley Institute for Technology Sept. 26-27. Check the Roundup for results.

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