05/08/13 1:00pm
05/08/2013 1:00 PM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO |  Luke Gustafson, a Hampton Bays senior, prepares his prize-winning dish at Suffolk Community College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center.

The kitchen was heating up at Suffolk County Community College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center in Riverhead Tuesday afternoon, where four high school student chefs were competing for a $1,500 scholarship to the culinary program.

Hampton Bays High School senior Luke Gustafson, 18, cooked the prize-winning dish: sliced chicken breast in a tomato-mushroom sauce served with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed French green beans.

To make it to the competition, he and the other aspiring chefs had to compete against culinary students from their own high schools. The winner from each participating school then moved on to the SCCC competition.

Now in its fifth year, the contest was created to support student learning and encourage promising students. It’s also a way to show off the culinary talent Long Island has to offer.

Similar to the Food Network’s cooking competition show “Chopped,” the students were given a mystery basket full of ingredients — and 90 minutes to turn them into a delectable dish.

College instructors kept a watchful eye on the students from start to finish, judging them on cooking techniques, use of ingredients, cleanliness, presentation, taste and creativity. The secret ingredients: chicken, potatoes and fresh green beans.

“They are the most common. If they can take these items and make something good out of them, they’ve accomplished the task,” said Richard Freilich, director of SCCC’s culinary arts program. “We don’t want to make it too difficult; we really just want to see their skill level.”

Other competitors were Daniel Insoyna, 17, a Southold High School junior; Ruben Bernacet, 19, a senior at Bellport High School; and Charles Alifano, 17, a senior at Floral Park Memorial High School.

Each student was accompanied by a culinary teacher from his high school, who came along for support.

Luke and Daniel are both enrolled in the Eastern Suffolk BOCES culinary program in Riverhead, spending 2 1/2 hours per day, five days a week learning different aspects of cooking.

“We’ve used all of the ingredients before,” said BOCES culinary teacher Tom Hashagen, a resident of Shelter Island. “We do a lot of instruction with chicken because it’s the cheapest thing to use. I told the kids it’s what they would probably have.”

Mr. Hashagen described Daniel, who took second place in the competition, as a quick learner. “He’s one of those kids that, once he comes in, you know he’s going to be good,” he said.

“Luke is sort of intense,” Mr. Hashagen continued. “He finds out what he needs to do and attacks it fairly well. He also shows some good leadership qualities we are trying to work on and foster.”

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02/02/11 9:59am
02/02/2011 9:59 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Suffolk County Community College Chef instructor Andrea Glick watches as students (from left) Nicole Vitellaro, 12 of Dix Hills, Margaux Reidy, 13, of Mattituck, amd Kevin Comiskey, 13 of Shoreham cut of lamb patties for mini gryos.

How do you take raw mussels, marula liquor, bosc pears and frozen waffles, and within 30 minutes create a meal that will wow a panel of expert chefs?

That was the challenge Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Program instructor Andrea Glick of Riverhead was faced with while appearing on the Jan. 11 episode of the Food Network show “Chopped.”

The show takes four chefs and challenges them to create three dishes — an appetizer, an entree and dessert — in three rounds, using a list of ingredients that most cooks would never consider pairing. And if he or she can’t take a combination of say, cream of coconut, baby turnips, wakame seaweed and fish heads and turn it into a tasty gourmet meal, host Ted Allen (of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy fame) informs the chef that he or she has been “chopped.”

An admitted lover of competitive food shows like “Top Chef,” Ms. Glick said she jumped at the chance to show off her skills on national television. She sent an application one day last summer and got a call from producers the next day.

Ms. Glick, who had worked under world renowned French chef Eric Ripert at his 4-star restaurant Le Bernardin in New York City, knew that not only was the $10,000 grand prize on the line, but her reputation as well.

She took the frozen waffles and turned them into a bread crumb consistency and made a complex broth with the liqueur and pears, a move that seemed to impress the judges.

She called the final dish “New Zealand Mussels with a sweet and sour marula sauce in pear chutney with toasted spiced waffle crumbs.”

“I really like the combination of flavors that you did,” said judge Maneet Chauhan, executive chef of Vermilion restaurant in Chicago. “I think it complemented the natural sweetness of the waffles very well.”

So confident after the contest she was, that she told her fellow contestants that she wouldn’t be the one going home.
“I left that room thinking I won,” she told the News-Review last week. ‘I was like, there was no way.”

Waffle bread crumbs aside, Ms. Glick’s dish failed to make the cut — she was chopped after the first round.
“I was pretty shocked,” she said.

She said her biggest mistake was trying to cook the mussels in a wok that just wouldn’t heat.
“I kicked myself over that one,” she said.

The judges said they had high hopes for Ms. Glick, but the unopened, still-bearded mussels  were big strikes against her.

“Andrea your dish was the one we were anticipating the most, given your history,” said Ms. Chauhan. “But there was some serious, basic mistakes.”

She said one of the biggest challenges was that she only had a few minutes to look over the facilities before the show. She also thought her background hurt her chances.

“I thought they put me on a pedestal over the other people,” she said while leaving the show. “And that’s a shame.”

Despite getting kicked off so early, Ms. Glick, who teaches advanced cuisine and international cuisine at SCCC, said it was a fun experience and that she would gladly take a second shot — if there was ever a redemption episode.

“It was great,” she said of the experience. “I would recommend it to anyone.”

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