Sullivan Students Hone Skills For Exacting Culinary Competition

A cohort of Sullivan University culinary students will compete against their peers from seven other professional training schools during the American Culinary Federation’s Southeast Regional Conference, which meets in Louisville Friday through Monday.

The winning team — the competition includes cold-food presentation, preparation skills and cooking — will go on to the national convention in Las Vegas in July.

The regional conference is being held at the Marriott Louisville Downtown, and the culinary competition will be at Sullivan University.

The competitors will first have to create and assemble for presentation a garde-manger platter, a cold food or appetizer selection.

In the skills portion of the contest, the students must demonstrate their knife skills by cutting vegetables quickly and evenly, in ways appropriate for each vegetable. They will have to break down a chicken, debone a fish, segment an orange and roll out a sablé dough — a rich cookie dough that has many pastry uses.

In the cooking part of the competition, the teams will have 90 minutes to prepare and present a salad, a fish preparation and dessert of their choice, as well as a pre-assigned “classical” entree — in this case an haute-cuisine chicken dish, poulet sauté Bercy, a preparation made famous by the turn-of-the-last-century chef Georges Auguste Escoffier.

Chef Derek Spendlove, the baking and pastry arts department chair at Sullivan, has competed in many culinary contests and is overseeing the preparations for the student competition.

“It’s pretty intense,” he said. “You have to really be on your game. There will be an evaluator in the kitchen looking for sanitation, organization, teamwork, correct cooking and plating procedures. They will be checking on the sequence of the meal preparation, noticing when each part of the meal gets going.”

Spendlove explained that the culinary students and their coaches devise their portion of the menu. The students do the research, gather ideas, try some out and confer with the coaches to make sure they are covering all the bases, considering all the aspects on which they will be judged.

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