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Iron Chef-Inspired Competition Provides Work-Based Learning Experiences

Waterbury, Conn. – Students from five area high schools practiced the art of cooking and teamwork during the second annual High School Culinary Competition held at Naugatuck Valley Community College on Nov. 8.

Students from Bethel High School, Crosby High School, Naugatuck High School, Wilby High School and Woodland Regional High School worked as a team under the supervision of NVCC Hospitality Program students. Participants were charged with the task of preparing two courses - an appetizer that had to incorporate a mystery ingredient and two hot entrées prepared from assigned recipes.

Funded by a Carl D. Perkins College Career Pathways federal grant and inspired by the Iron Chef television show, the competition allows students to practice teamwork, speaking skills, develop confidence in meal preparation and apply cooking techniques using fresh, healthful ingredients.

“The program is great because it not only promotes partnership between high schools and colleges, but offers students work-based learning experiences in an industry in which they’re interested,” NVCC Behavioral and Social Sciences Academic Division Director William Brown, Ph.D., said. “We’re very impressed with how well the students have done this year; they’ve worked incredibly hard under a lot of pressure.”

The program also aligns with Board of Regents for Higher Education President David Gray’s recently-identified goal to support growing career clusters including hospitality, which offer a strong jobs pipeline of which students can take advantage.

NVCC Hospitality Management faculty, staff and culinary industry professionals judged teams on the organization of ingredients, sanitation, production and the final product.

Crosby High School students Andi Seitllari, Zachary Quigley, Jean-Paul Ortiz won first place after cooking the best entrée and introducing a mozzarella and tomato with balsamic vinaigrette appetizer.

“They practiced hard for this competition,” Crosby High School Culinary Instructor Kirk Palladino said. “I would assign menus to them that they’ve never seen before and then I would critique them on everything from basic prep to plating.”

“We strategized and worked together, and prepared as a team,” said Andi. “Last time we were in this we placed third, so we are thrilled to have won. This is a great event.”

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