Acadia, Vermilion students compete in seafood cooking competition

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Chaselan Eames, 16, and Warneiseya Davis,18, of West Feliciana High School demonstrate their cooking talents at the ProStart Culinary Competition on Tuesday at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Chaselan Eames, 16, and Warneiseya Davis,18, of West Feliciana High School demonstrate their cooking talents at the ProStart Culinary Competition on Tuesday at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.

Students from 17 Louisiana high schools, including schools in Acadia and Vermilion parishes, came to the Pontchartrain Center on Tuesday to compete for more than $870,000 in scholarships to be awarded Wednesday to the top three teams in the Louisiana Seafood ProStart Student Competition.

On Tuesday, the teams demonstrated their knife skills, showing the judges their best julienne, brunoise, mine and chiffonade techniques as they broke down whole chickens and filled bowls with peppers, onions, carrots and tomatoes.

Deniyia Bernard, of Rayne High School, said the time limit presented the biggest challenge, even with having practiced the pan-fried Oysters Rockefeller, Voodoo pork tenderloin, and king cake bon bons “hundreds of times.”

As she watched other students compete, Bernard said she was nervous, but felt her team did well. She said she was anxious to get to the next day’s critiques and final results

The team to beat Tuesday was Hammond High Magnet School, the winners of the state competition for the past five years.

Peter Sclafani, Hammond High’s mentor and executive chef and owner of Ruffino’s in Baton Rouge, said he was most impressed by the students’ ability to produce their meals in only an hour, with no electricity, and using only two butane stoves to cook.

Wendy Waren, vice president of communications for the Louisiana Restaurant Association, said through the year-long ProStart classes students also participate in internships with local restaurants and can earn college credit as well as their food safety certifications.

Waren said the program also seeks to meet the needs of the Louisiana restaurant industry, which is expected to add 17,400 jobs by the year 2022.