“Just take one bite. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat a second.” I can still hear my mom’s cajoling words when I turned up my nose or clenched my mouth tight. Light years later, those very words slipped out of my mouth when my picky-eater daughter would refuse to eat what I had cooked. Fortunately for both of us, now world class champions of trying a bite of something unfamiliar (no insects, please… I can only bend so far!), the “try one bite rule” has enabled us to travel across many countries and continents, devouring many new foods along the way.
Some people eat to live.
I live to eat.
Cooking and baking are two of my passions. Thank goodness a third one is exercising (as long as music and dance are involved) or I’d weigh hundreds of pounds. My tongue waters as the smell of onions and garlic sizzling in a hot oiled pan assail my nose like the sweetest of perfumes. Fresh baked cookies, pizza, or a marinated pork roast simmering in caraway-infused sauerkraut… any and all of those aromas and my taste buds perk up like a child’s ears attuned to adults trying to whisper forbidden conversation.
I grew up in an Eastern European Jewish home and learned to cook and bake dishes from those ethnic cultures at the hands of my more than capable grandmothers, aunts and my Mom. A pinch of this. A dash of that. Smell. Toss. Stir. Experiment.
Our military service family moved frequently from state-to-state, country-to-country. Each time my Mom learned to cook like the natives. The education of my palate began early and by the Read more
If wishes were dreams that come true, being able to take culinary classes in high school would have been near the top of my list. As easy as it would be for me to be envious of the 193 students who participated in the competition segments of the Orange County (FL) Public School’s 4th Annual Hospitality and Culinary Competition, I am instead grateful to have once again witnessed the incredible creative and skilled talent they exhibited.
The December competition held annually at the Orlando World Center Marriott broadens the number of categories and participating schools and tech centers each year who offer culinary and/or hospitality training. Competition categories include: gourmet meals, desserts, knife skills, decorative centerpieces, edible centerpieces, and waiter’s relay. The hospitality portion, which I didn’t see, includes room inspection, case study analysis and project presentation.
This was my fourth year of judging. The first time I agreed to sample desserts in the early morning. As lovely as some of those sweets were that crossed my lips and went straight to my hips, I have happily judged the presentation of edible centerpieces for the past three years if for no other reason than to stand in awe of what these students craft in an hour.
The Marriott prepared an amazing buffet in multiple stations for the judges and students and then awards are presented for the top places in each category. After smelling the aromas of gourmet meals and desserts being prepared tableside across the cavernous ballroom for a few hours, you can understand why there’s a mad rush for the buffet tables when given the OK signal.
Before I name the participating schools, tech centers and winners, I encourage anyone who would like to witness or impact future generations of hospitality and culinary stars to contact Patricia Breeding for next year’s team of volunteers. 407-317-3200,ext 2690 or Patricia.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t take just my word that this program is beneficial. Dave Robitaille, MS, MT (ASCP) and Program Specialist and Administrator for the Health Science Career and Technical Education at OCPS says, “The data overwhelmingly shows that students enrolled in CTE programs have a greater chance of completing high school and going to college than non-CTE students. So, CTE programs should not be looked at as an alternative for students not bound for college. On the contrary, if parents want their children to go to college, they should encourage them to enroll in a CTE program.”
The high schools who participated are: Colonial, Cypress Creek, Freedom, Wekiva, Winter Park, Oak Ridge, Gateway School, and Dr Phillips. Tech centers include Mid Florida Tech, Westside Tech, and Orlando Tech. Sponsors included the Marriott, Keiser University, Johnson and Wales University, and the CFHLA.
|School||Home School||Student Name|
|Non – Edible Centerpiece|
|First place||Cypress Creek HS||Riani Pokipala|
|Second place||Dr Phillips HS||Cassidy Brown|
|Second place||Dr Phillips HS||Sofia Fernandez|
|Second place||Dr Phillips HS||Madison Fitch|
|Second place||Dr Phillips HS||Tia Humphries|
|First place||Mid Florida Tech||University HS||Christine Hernandez|
|Second place||Mid Florida Tech||Edgewater HS||Kristopher Davis|
|Third place||Mid Florida Tech||Cypress Creek||Jamie Pena|
|Dessert High School|
|First place||Gateway School||Heriberto Lopez|
|First place||Gateway School||Josue Cabrales|
|Second place||Cypress Creek HS||Grant Baldinger|
|Second place||Cypress Creek HS||Jessica Butler|
|Third place||Winter Park HS||Daniella Sauri|
|Third place||Winter Park HS||Raham Elsayed|
|First place||Westside Tech||Wekiva HS||Zakoya Hall|
|First place||Westside Tech||Evans HS||Devante McDonald|
|Second place||Westside Tech||West Orange HS||Kristi Caruana|
|Second place||Westside Tech||West Orange HS||Lauren Harms|
|First place||Winter Park HS||Melissa Morales|
|First place||Winter Park HS||Antonio Cepero|
|First place||Winter Park HS||Angelique Allison|
|Second place||Winter Park HS||Joey Goldberg|
|Second place||Winter Park HS||Laura Johnson|
|Second place||Winter Park HS||Foley Flood|
|Third place||Winter Park HS||Caleb Johnson|
|Third place||Winter Park HS||Julie Phicien|
|Third place||Winter Park HS||Amber Negron|
|Gourmet MealTech Center|
|First place||Westside Tech||West Orange HS||Angela Cippilone|
|First place||Westside Tech||West Orange HS||Brandon Santiago|
|First place||Westside Tech||West Orange HS||Abby Johnson|
|Second place||Mid Florida Tech||Cypress Creek||Emmanuel Arboleda|
|Second place||Mid Florida Tech||University HS||Raquel Amador|
|Second place||Mid Florida Tech||University HS||Desiree Perez|
|First place||Orlando Tech||Winter Park HS||Yafreicy Rodriguez|
|Second place||Mid Florida Tech||Dr Phillips HS||Fransheska Whittington|
|Third place||Westside Tech||Wekiva HS||Latasha Morris|
|First place||Freedom HS||Luis Alvarado|
|First place||Freedom HS||Ysenia Palomino|
|First place||Freedom HS||Lourdes Sanchez|
|Second place||Colonial HS||Christine Ortiz Hernandez|
|Second place||Colonial HS||Nathaniel Morales|
|Second place||Colonial HS||Angel Dones|
|Third place||Orlando Tech||University HS||Jessica Rivera|
|Third place||Orlando Tech||University HS||Gabrielle Tursi|
|Third place||Orlando Tech||University HS||Adrianna Colon|
Hospitality Competition Winners
|Event||School||Home School||Student Name|
|First place – Overall||Dr Phillips HS||Tia Humphries|
|First place||Dr Phillips HS||Cassidy Brown|
|First place||Dr Phillips HS||Madison Fitch|
|First place||Dr Phillips HS||Sofia Fernandez|
|Second place- Overall||Colonial HS||Yarissa Pena|
|Second place||Colonial HS||Meagan Ojeda|
|Second place||Colonial HS||Noe Hernandez|
|Second place||Colonial HS||Lesly Lopez|
|Third place – Overall||Mid Florida Tech||Lake Nona HS||Angie Grunskyte|
|Third place||Mid Florida Tech||West Orange HS||Jadia Johnson|
|Third place||Mid Florida Tech||Cypress Creek HS||Sasha Gatti|
|Third place||Mid Florida Tech||Wekiva HS||Deja Miller|
Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries. She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI. She writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, Karen has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. email@example.com; www.ThePsychicLady.com. @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.