FDSH students compete in culinary challenge

Fort Dodge Senior High culinary students engaged in the school’s first culinary challenge Wednesday.

Ten students in the school’s culinary arts program, working in five groups of two, prepared meals for a panel of judges. The teams were judged on presentation and taste, each category worth up to 10 points. The prize? The winning recipe will be prepared by Nick Sells, district chef, and served every Friday in the month of April.

The challenge is meant to help students develop their timing, flavor profiles, recipe development and to apply their skills in a practical setting.

Jessie Palmer, FDSH culinary instructor, said the challenge was an exciting one.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for these kids to start showcasing some of their skills,” Palmer said. “And they’re excited, which is even better.”

More than excited, many of the students are serious about becoming chefs one day, according to Palmer.

“I have quite a few students who are interested in pursuing culinary careers as a profession,” she said. “Even those who haven’t expressed that, they see the validity in the skills and how they can use these skills every day at home. They talk about making the recipes we’ve done in class.”

A bonus, students in the senior high course are receiving college credit with the culinary arts program at Iowa Central Community College.

Chef Nick Sells aided the students in their preparations. Each team was given a basket of items to use for their meals.

“They all get ingredients to choose from and go from there,” Sells said. “There’s different proteins they can chose from, different starches, different vegetables, so they can all just go in different directions completely.”

The challenge is the culmination of three trimesters worth of learning, Palmer said.

“These students began in Intro to Hospitality, and then for trimesters two and three it transitions into food prep lab and lecture,” she said. “They just transitioned into their second half of food prep lab and lecture, so we’re finally starting to get into some of the proteins.”

The students are well-trained in how to handle and prepare food.

“We’ve done a lot of work with potatoes, eggs,” Palmer said. “They’re very comfortable with legumes and grains. A lot of these dishes have representations of those items that they’re comfortable with and items they’re not comfortable with using, but they knew how to get good information on preparing those items.”

The winning team will have their recipe followed by Sells, and their meal served to their fellow students.

“They’re going to go ahead and write their recipes, and that’s a standard format they learn as well,” Palmer said. “And it will be presented to (Chef) Nick and he will prepare them just as they were prepared today on the menu.”

Doug Van Zyl, Fort Dodge Community School District superintendent, served as one of the judges, sampling each of the five meals.

“I enjoy doing things like this,” Van Zyl said. “It’s a fun opportunity for me to get out and see some of the things the kids are doing.”

The event shows the diversity of education offered by the school district, Van Zyl said, and its partnership with Iowa Central.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Van Zyl said, “to showcase some of those opportunities other kids have, that maybe they won’t have someplace else.”