By Monique Jones
The Birmingham Times
Wenonah High School’s celebrated culinary institute received a $1,000 cash prize after the program’s junior and senior students squared off in a Tuesday competition at the Innovation Depot in downtown Birmingham.
The Ready. Set. Cook. competition was presented by Wind Creek Hospitality, which is traveling the state to promote workforce development. Wind Creek officials had their own chefs assisting students during the competition.
Wenonah’s students were split into two teams comprised of juniors and seniors.
Neither team knew what dishes they would be preparing nor the ingredients required. A Wind Creek chef gave each team recipes to select, and Wind Creek chefs Peter D’Andrea and Brandon Thrash helped the teams create their final dishes during a timed round.
The senior team, “17 Flavors”, was awarded titles of Best Taste and Best Presentation and received autographed copies of television personality Alton Brown’s cookbook “EveryDayCook” and the $1000 prize for the academy.
The team was comprised of Keitisha Bell, Sakinah Townes and Amber Senior and their winning dessert was Strawberry Mille Fuille with Basil Syrup.
“I had fun,” Bell said. “Even though it was a competition, I still had fun.”
The junior team, “The Grub Club,” was comprised of Asia Tatum, Taytianna Day, Juahmun Sturgeon and Aaron Harris. Their dessert Chocolate Mousse with Fried Banana and Caramel Syrup, deemed them as the team with the best execution and creativity by the judges. They won a copy of “The Joy of Cooking” cookbook for use in the academy’s kitchen.
Diann Pilgrim, a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Wenonah and the director of the school’s Academy of Hospitality and Tourism (AOHT), said the event allowed students to network with professional chefs.
“You never know with the people that you meet what possibilities there might be. They could be your future employer,” Pilgrim said.
Students are energized from the experience and can’t wait to recreate their recipes, she added.
“When the kids were rewarded…there’s just no way to describe…just how proud they were of what they had accomplished and how excited they were at the way [their dishes] tasted,” she said, “There was no way to describe their excitement.”
Some of the prize money will be used to fund a national competition trip in July. “It’s nice to know we have that prize we can take and use strictly for the program,” she said.
J.W. Carpenter, executive director of the Birmingham Education Foundation, who helped emcee the program, said, “Our students are stars. They have limitless potential. When they are put in the position to shine and [are] given great opportunities, they shine 100 percent of the time. I was delighted to see them do great stuff in there[.]”
Judges for the competition included Birmingham blogger Angela Abdur-Rasheed, Birmingham City Schools’ Director of Schools, Constance Burns and Chef Dre of the Preservery Bham, a restaurant set to open in downtown Birmingham this fall.