Remember home economics class? Perhaps if you enjoy cooking, you have fond memories of making basic dishes such as biscuits, baked chicken and pasta for one school period, in perhaps your sophomore or junior year of high school. While for many schools across the U.S., home economics class is more of a thing of the past, Food and Finance High School in Manhattan takes it a step further by offering a rigorous professional culinary program to its curriculum. Students learn kitchen basics such as knife skills, safety and sanitation, and eventually progress to preparing and developing more complex recipes throughout their entire high school education. It is the only culinary high school in New York City and is tuition-free.
Colavita’s involvement with Food and Finance began last year where the winners of the Colavita Challenge were sent on an all-expenses paid trip to Italy and each were given a $2,500 scholarship. By partnering with the only culinary school in Manhattan, Colavita has been formed a relationship with these young cooks watching their skills progress and giving providing them with quality ingredients to prepare them for their future culinary careers.
Earlier this week, ten teams of two competed against each other in round two of the Colavita Challenge. Round one took place via an application process where applicants answered a series of questions and then a group of non-biased stakeholders assessed their responses to determine who moved on to the next round. After the ten teams were selected, they studied, practiced and developed their customized polenta recipe. On competition day, they were judged by three guest chefs in eight different categories: understanding of recipe, creativity, interview skills, teamwork, taste, timing, safety/sanitation and presentation. Among the judges were HelloFresh head chef Claudio Sidoti, fresh&co executive chef Craig Rispoli and Adam Frost of Cultivated NY.
Among all of the whisking, chiffonade and plating, what stood out the most were teamwork and passion. It was clear that the team members were friends that enjoyed each other’s company, respected each other’s work ethic and were truly enthusiastic about making the perfect polenta which takes patience, an eye for detail and the ability to think on the fly. But the key trick was to impress the judges by using the provided ingredients to take this basic grain to the next level. Among the varieties were cheesy and smooth, herbed and formidable, and even a sweet, cinnamon rendition that was similar to an American childhood favorite, Farina. .
After this round, only three teams will advance to the next and final round which takes place on January 10, 2020. Once chosen they will be paired with a mentor to develop recipes to be cooked and judged live during the Colavita Challenge. We’re looking forward to cheering them on and documenting their journey to the finish line and beyond to Italy!
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