Culinary competition at Pearl River Central High School

Published 7:00 am Saturday, February 24, 2018

Thursday afternoon Pearl River Central High School students put their culinary skills to the test in a competition.

Four students participated in the event – freshman Zachary Lassiter, sophomore Chloe Beachner, sophomore Braydon Schielder, and senior Jackson Lott. The four students gathered in the early afternoon to begin cooking their dishes. Each student was supplied with $30 to purchase ingredients, and were given a time limit to cook and present their dishes. While they were cooking, the students were given a surprise ingredient of refried beans, which they all incorporated into their sauces.

Lassiter used roast beef, provolone cheese, mixed peppers, and seasoning to create his own version of Philly cheesesteak. He served homemade gravy in small bowls alongside the baked sandwiches. Lassiter said that he’s spent time in the kitchen since he was 4-years-old and often cooked with his grandmother.

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Beachner’s dish took inspiration from her love of cheesecake and Chinese food, whipping up cheesecake egg rolls with a strawberry dipping sauce. She stuffed and rolled each by hand and then deep-fried them. She served them with a small bowl of the dipping sauce. This was Beachner’s second year to participate in the event. She said that after losing last year, she did her best to learn new techniques so she could try again.

Schielder, who is a member of the school’s culinary arts group, made a dish of spinach artichoke dip stuffed chicken over pasta. He said that his interest in culinary arts started 7 or 8 years ago and he has been cooking ever since. After throwing a noodle against the wall, he declared the pasta cooked and began to plate his dish.

Finally, Lott, who is also a member of the school’s culinary arts group, prepared a shrimp pad thai dish. He said the idea came to him while visiting his brother and friends in Hattiesburg. Since they did not have any food, they gave Lott $20 and he whipped up a quick helping of pad thai. He liked it so much, that he decided to recreate it for the competition.

When asked about the surprise ingredient, Lott said, “getting them hurt my heart. I don’t really like refried beans unless they’re homemade.”

The competition was reviewed by three judges, Regional Sales Manager for the Chef Paul Prudhomme Magic Seasoning Blend company Harrison Smith, chef cookbook author and first-ever Master Chef winner Whitney Miller, and executive chef and Chopped winner Nick Wallace.

The competition was judged in two categories – culinary and non-culinary. District Food Service Administrator Sheila Amacker said the competition was split into multiple categories to encourage more students to participate – even those outside of the school’s culinary program.

Dishes were judged in the order in which they were plated. Lassiter went first, followed by Lott, Beachner, and Schielder. After tasting each dish and asking the students about their methods and inspirations, the judges declared the winners.

In the advanced culinary category, Lott was declared the grand winner. He was given several gifts from the event’s sponsors including a day trip to New Orleans from the Magic Seasoning Blends Company.

In the intermediate non-culinary category, Beachner was given 1st place and declared the “Blue Devil Cook-off Champ.” She was also awarded with several gifts and a trip to New Orleans, though she said she wanted to give her trip to Lassider instead.

Lassider and Schielder both placed second in their respective categories.

“They are all winners,” Amacker said after the event. She said everyone was very happy with how the event turned out.