Two little apple lovebirds sitting in a  watermelon of love. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Two little apple lovebirds sitting in a watermelon of love. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Chef demo of making a Christmas tree completely of chocolate, including the glittery balls. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Chef demo of making a Christmas tree completely of chocolate, including the glittery balls. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Sea life centerpiece. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Sea life centerpiece. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Oh, and while you’re at it, do it within a specified time limit under the watchful eyes of judging chefs and other culinary world volunteers who are making sure you’re following the guidelines set forth in the Orange County Public Schools Annual Hospitality and Culinary Competition. After all, with 220 competitors registered for the hospitality or culinary portion of this 5th annual competition, each student will want to showcase his or her specialized skills for the maximum benefit.

As one of the judges who has watched this competition grow each year, I am in awe of the talent and training our future hospitality and culinary staff are receiving. Sure, they’re competing for trophies and awards that honor their school program as well as their own abilities, but what’s at stake could also be scholarships to college programs. The first year I judged, I tasted about 20 desserts beginning at 10 am. Let’s just say I was happily shifted, and where I’ve remained each year, to judging the final presentation of edible centerpieces. I watch them carve fruits, craft shapes and create vignettes from apples and melons and flowers and I am constantly amazed.

This year there were 360 students in attendance. While they may not have all competed, they could take a tour of the kitchens or watch chef demonstrations of knife skills or on how to mold chocolate into a Christmas tree with hanging glittery balls.

As it has been since I began judging, the competition took place at the Orlando World Center Marriott, which generously donates space, judges, event staff, tour guides, AV equipment and staff, banquet staff, and the HR staff. They also prepare a buffet lunch to feed all the students, staff, families and judges who have had to smell the aromas wafting throughout the ballroom since the early hours of morning. UCF Rosen College and Johnson & Wales University organized the hospitality portion and the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association donated the trophies, awards and food expenses. Keiser University donated staff, volunteers, demo chef, and shared the lunch costs.

Each year something new is added to the overall competition. This time it was Egg Flipping. Don’t laugh. How often have you perfectly flipped eggs in an 8” pan? It happens to be a skill I mastered long ago but which never fails to impress friends and family the first time they see it.

The other new entry was called “Cooking Up Change.” They were situated near the Edible Centerpieces so I could watch between judging. The competition, sponsored by Food and Nutrition Services, challenges teams to come up with a full meal that will meet the budgetary constraints and nutrition requirements of high school cafeterias while still tasty to teens. The aromas were positively tantalizing. The meals were prepped, plated, sampled and judged for aesthetics, cost and taste.

a colorful bounty of fruit in a watermelon bowl. photo by Karen Kuzsel

a colorful bounty of fruit in a watermelon bowl. photo by Karen Kuzsel

For the first time, high schools competed separately from Tech Centers. Here’s who participated this year:

Colonial HS – Culinary Arts and Hospitality and Tourism

Cypress Creek HS – Culinary Arts

Evans HS – Culinary Arts

Freedom HS – Culinary Arts

Wekiva HS – Culinary Arts

Winter Park HS – Culinary Arts

Oak Ridge HS – Hospitality and Tourism

Dr Phillips HS – Hospitality and Tourism

Gateway School – Culinary Arts

Mid Florida Tech – Culinary Arts and Hospitality and Tourism

Westside Tech – Culinary Arts

Orlando Tech – Culinary Arts

The OCPS competition occurs each December. Volunteers are always needed. If you want to join in the fun as a school or as a volunteer, contact Patricia Breeding, Instructional Support. patricia.breeding@ocps.net or give her a buzz after the New Year at 407-317-3200, ext. 2690 (200-2690).

How many knife cuts to carve this cantelope? photo by Karen Kuzsel

How many knife cuts to carve this cantelope? photo by Karen Kuzsel

Culinary Event Winners

 

Event School Home School Student Name
Edible Centerpiece
First place Cypress Creek HS Esmeralda Lopez
Second place Wekiva HS Autumn Skates
Third place Mid Florida Tech Timber Creek HS Raymond Jaiman
Dessert

High School

First place Cypress Creek HS Grant Baldinger
First place Cypress Creek HS Gabrielle Rivera
Second place Winter Park HS Daniella Sauri
Second place Winter Park HS Gabriela Groff
Third place Winter Park HS Tiffany Castro
Third place Winter Park HS Kimberly Cheng
Dessert

Tech Center

     
First place Mid Florida Tech University HS Brianna Diaz
First place Mid Florida Tech University HS Tatiana Torres
Second place Mid Florida Tech Jonathon Monroig
Gourmet Meal      
First place Winter Park HS Antonio Cepero
First place Winter Park HS Melissa Morales
First place Winter Park HS Nickolas Conroy
Second place Wekiva HS Keishla Olivaras
Second place Wekiva HS Jessica Harman
Second place Wekiva HS Dustin Hamilton
Third place Freedom HS Amandalys Joseph
Third place Freedom HS Urbaez Gabin
Third place Freedom HS Zachry Rendon
Gourmet Meal

Tech Center

     
First place Westside Tech Olympia HS Tyler Trainer
First place Westside Tech Freedom HS Paige Blew
First place Westside Tech Ocoee HS Kaylan Grant
Second place Mid Florida Tech University HS Valeria Torres
Second place Mid Florida Tech University HS Stephanie Torres
Second place Mid Florida Tech Edgewater HS Kristopher Davies
Knife Skills      
First place Winter Park HS Joshera Davila
Second place Cypress Creek HS Jacob Fletcher
Third place Mid Florida Tech Boone HS Tierria Edwards

 

Event School Home School Student Name
Waiter’s Relay
First place Mid Florida Tech Timber Creek HS Sharon Cordero
First place Mid Florida Tech Freedom HS Doina Madonici
First place Mid Florida Tech Freedom HS Jessica Polonia
Second place Cypress Creek HS Adam Manzanet
Second place Cypress Creek HS Sunil Alicea
Second place Cypress Creek HS Carols Ardila
Third place Freedom HS Sarah Jameer
Third place Freedom HS Giselle Negron Muniz
Third place Freedom HS Karen Sanchez
Egg Flippin
First place Freedom HS Martin Murcio
First place Freedom HS Amanda Perez
Second place Evans HS Evelyn Dubiusson
Second place Evans HS Habacus Exantus
Third place Winter Park HS Austin Phillips
Third place Winter Park HS Jose De La Cruz

 

 

Hospitality Competition Winners

 

Event School Home School Student Name
Hospitality Competition
First place – Overall Mid Florida Tech Boone HS Esly Sarmiento
First place Mid Florida Tech Boone HS Diddenia Ramos
First place Mid Florida Tech East River HS Roger Longmore
First place Mid Florida Tech Lake Nona HS Bryan Droz
Second place- Overall Dr Phillips HS Tia Humphries
Second place Dr Phillips HS Cassidy Brown
Second place Dr Phillips HS Alexandrea Nguyen
Second place Dr Phillips HS Madison Fitch
Third place – Overall Dr Phillips HS Sayyaaf Walani
Third place Dr Phillips HS Shakil Kabani
Third place Dr Phillips HS John Morgan Ring
Third place Dr Phillips HS Christian Eady
Food and Beverage

Case Study

First Place Dr Phillips HS Tia Humphries
Dr Phillips HS Cassidy Brown
Dr Phillips HS Alexandrea Nguyen
Dr Phillips HS Madison Fitch
Event Project
First Place Colonial HS Ryland Britton
Colonial HS Lesley Lopez
Colonial HS Patricia Mateo
Colonial HS Linda Cartagena
Room Inspection      
First Place Dr Phillips HS Tia Humphries
Dr Phillips HS Cassidy Brown
Dr Phillips HS Alexandrea Nguyen
Dr Phillips HS Madison Fitch
Sales and Marketing      
First Place Mid Florida Tech Boone HS Esly Sarmiento
Mid Florida Tech Boone HS Diddenia Ramos
Mid Florida Tech East River HS Roger Longmore
Mid Florida Tech Lake Nona HS Bryan Droz

 

 

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. karenkuzsel@earthlink.net; www.ThePsychicLady.com; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.

 

 

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