CCLP/PAMELA GRANT  Laura Garrett works on preparing a watermelon radish aioli for CTC’s “Iron Chef” competition.

CTC hosts culinary cook-off

CTC hosts culinary cook-off
Cove Leader-Press
For the five teams who competed in Central Texas College's Culinary Arts Department “Iron Chef” competition, cooking is a snap. The hard part was incorporating the secret ingredient, watermelon radish, in a tasty, yet meaningful manner.
The Iron Chef competition was held Thursday in the Student Center of CTC beginning at 11:30 a.m. The competition was modeled after the television show “Iron Chef” and tested not only the competitors’ culinary skills, but also their ability to think quickly and creatively. The competitors, all culinary students at CTC, prepared an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Each dish was timed and the culinary students were required to use the secret ingredient, watermelon radish, in some form in every dish. They were judged by a panel of three culinary experts and the team with the highest score was declared the winner of the competition.
Team 5 was ultimately declared the winner of the coveted 1st place prize which meant each member received a gold medal and their names will be added to a plaque declaring their victory which will be displayed at CTC. Christian Navarro, Laura Garrett, Chris Denton, Wesley Cravey and Drew Bauer were the five chefs of Team 5.
Team 3 came in 2nd place and Team 2 came in 3rd place.
Throughout the competition, the competitors raced around the kitchen gathering supplies and cooking up their dishes as quickly as they could while still producing quality food while others periodically shouted out the time remaining.
“It’s heart pounding. I’m not used to cooking at this speed. I prefer to savor the moment,” said Unitt as he prepared Chicken Kiev. Phillip Unitt was a member of 3rd place Team 2. Unitt is retired from the military after 23 years and prior to enrolling in CTC dabbled in cooking at home. “I love the opportunity to be able to grab something and make something new out of it. [The competition]’s fun. We’re just testing our skills.”
Judges of the competition included Catherine Hosman, the editor of Tex Appeal Magazine; Matt Cranfill, the executive chef at Shilo Inn; and Clare Haefner, the deputy managing editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Cranfill and Haefner were returning judges to the competition. 
“[The taste of the watermelon radish] is mild. I think that is their challenge for this competition. Since
radish is so mild they have to not let the other ingredients that they’re using overpower it,” said Hosman who said that flavor and use of the secret ingredient were the most important criteria in this competition for her.
Cranfill said that the most important criterion for him is originality and how creative they are with the secret ingredient. He added that execution is important as well. He said the watermelon radish is not as potent as a normal radish, but it still wasn’t an ingredient that could be inserted simply into a dish. He said he looked forward to seeing how creative the students could be. The judges scored each dish on several criteria including flavor, aroma, presentation, originality, and several other categories.
“I was initially just going to be a dishwasher, but my team said, ‘No. You’re better than this,’” said Michael Ramos, a member of Team 2 which came in 3rd place. He said that he’s only in his 3rd semester of cooking. “What they said, that gave me encouragement…that built me up and made me feel confident. Without their encouragement, I wouldn’t be here today.”
“I think we should have won overall. We had some great chefs…I think we did wonderfully. I think we all performed really well. I thank them all for being on our team,” said Joe Dennard who was on the 2nd place Team 3. “If it weren’t for my team, we wouldn’t be here in 2nd place. Everything was great. It was great working with them.”
Laura Garrett was a member of Team 5, the winning team. She said that they were also the returning champs. She said the secret ingredient was a lot better than last year’s secret ingredient which was fennel. She has competed for two years, and said that cooking, for her, is an artistic outlet. For their appetizer, Team 5 prepared a sweet and savory bacon twist with watermelon radish aioli. 
“It feels really good to win,” said Garrett. “I think that going in having confidence and working as a team really helped us to win. We all came in with a pretty set plan that we stuck to…Having a good plan, confidence, and then working as a team helped us to win.”

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