Cook-off wins students kitchen time with celebrity chefs
Culinary arts student Nina Levin's squash ice cream was the grand finale to a Mystery Box cooking competition among six students yesterday afternoon (October 14) at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS).
As the first and second place winners in the contest, sophomore Maxwell Moreis and Ms. Levin, a junior, won the opportunity to assist celebrity chefs Stefan Richter and Andy Husbands at the Martha's Vineyard Food and Wine Festival's kick-off event Friday night. Senior Ross Hathaway, who came in third in the competition, will be an alternate.
The festival's Friday night opening reception and Saturday afternoon Grand Tasting are held outdoors on the grounds of the Martha's Vineyard Museum (MVM). Proceeds from the opening reception will be donated to the museum.
Mr. Richter, Bravo television network's Top Chef Season Five Finalist, also will demonstrate how to filet fish to all of the culinary arts students on Friday morning. He is the chef/owner of Stean's at LA Farm. Mr. Husbands, a Hell's Kitchen television show contestant, is the chef/owner of Tremont 647 in Boston.
"We thought it would be fun to bring the festival and culinary students together," festival director Sarah Leaf-Herrmann said. "It's a way to showcase the culinary arts program's achievements to people coming from off-Island and to better connect the festival with the community."
MVM director of development Amy Houghton and festival co-chairman Melissa Vincent, whose son graduated from the culinary arts program, helped bring the idea to fruition.
"What a great opportunity for our kids," MVRHS chef/instructor Jack O'Malley said in phone call last week. "They're looking forward to working with a guest chef."
To start Wednesday's contest, he gave the students a "mystery box" containing pork, tilapia, and chicken (they had to choose two), plus butternut squash fresh from Norton Farm, mushrooms, and leeks.
Under the contest's rules, the students were given two and a half hours to prepare a two-course meal, which could include any combination of appetizer, salad, soup, entrée or dessert. They were required to use all of the mystery box ingredients between the two dishes, and could add other ingredients available in the kitchen.
Upon completion, the culinary students presented their dishes to a panel of judges, including Jaimie Hamlin of V. Jaime Hamlin and Sons Catering, chef/author Tina Miller from Plum TV, and Atria Restaurant chef and owner Christian Thornton, and MVRHS vocational director Jeff Rothwell.
The judges awarded up to 10 points for taste, 5 for presentation, and 5 for use of ingredients. Mr. O'Malley added up to 5 points for students' kitchen skills, including cleanliness.
Dishes included fried tilapia with a chipotle mayonnaise sauce, butterflied pork with roasted and mashed squash rosettes, and mushroom/squash risotto, to name a few.
"There were some dishes that stood out, but across the board, everyone did a good job," Mr. Thornton said. "And all of us loved the squash ice cream."
As the top scorers, Mr. Moreis received 154 points, Ms. Levin 147, and Mr. Hathaway 146.
This year's food and wine festival is the third nonprofit event by the Edgartown Board of Trade, according to festival co-chairman Carol McManus.
"We hope it keeps growing and goes Island-wide," she said.