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Mississippi 4-H wins 2nd place in cook-off
OCEAN SPRINGS – The St. Martin High School 4-H Club took second place in the 4-H edition of the Great American Seafood Cook-Off.
“I am so proud of them and their accomplishment,” said Evelyn DeAngelo, Jackson County 4-H Agent with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service. “I know they were a bit disappointed not to win first place, but their second place win paired with last year’s first place has established Mississippi as the team to beat in future competitions.”
Team members Shelby Harris, Andrew Simons, Brianna Allen and Jessica Wasmer competed against five other 4-H teams from across the country during the August 12 contest at the New Orleans Convention Center.
“These kids put in a lot of work getting ready for this competition,” DeAngelo said. “We met at the school every week starting in mid-July to choose and develop a recipe and work out the logistics of being able to prepare it in 60 minutes.”
Healthy eating was the theme of the 2012 cook-off, so the team had to prepare a low-sodium, low-calorie dish in one hour from start to finish. The dish had to be made with United States seafood and one agricultural commodity from each team’s state. St. Martin’s Gulf Coast Bouillabaisse included shrimp, Wahoo fish fillet, oysters and blue crab claws, all from the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi-grown tomatoes.
“This dish was a challenge because Gulf Coast seafood naturally has a fairly high amount of sodium, so the kids worked to develop a recipe that incorporated a lot of spices and natural flavors instead of using extra salt,” DeAngelo said. “Keeping it under 500 calories was also harder than we expected.”
Harris, who aspires to be a pastry chef, said she was inspired to join the team this year after watching her brother’s team bring home first place last year.
“He was so excited to have accomplished such a big goal,” she said. “I joined the team because I thought the experience would be fun and exciting.”
The cook-off spanned three days. The first day’s competition featured professional chefs from all over the country. 4-H teams competed the second day, and culinary students competed the third day.
“The youth event is strictly for 4-H’ers, and this allows them to get an up-close look at professional chefs and culinary students in action,” DeAngelo said. “It’s a great way for them to get some real-world experience and get a feel for what the profession is like. It’s important for them to be able to demonstrate their skills in a setting where there is pressure and competition because it develops their skill set even further.
“I know they had fun and enjoyed unique experiences that will hopefully inspire them to stay focused on higher education and careers involving culinary arts or food science,” she said.
The partnership between the 4-H program and St. Martin High School is beneficial for students.
“The co-sponsorship with 4-H has given our school program a tremendous boost,” said Robin Pate, culinary arts instructor at St. Martin High School. “It has opened so many doors for these kids. In the classroom, we focus on food preparation and safety, and 4-H blends the skills learned here with other necessary life skills, such as public speaking.”
Other 4-H clubs in the competition were from Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Carolina and Louisiana.
Teams were judged on the food’s appearance and quality, food preparation and safety, team members’ knowledge of the seafood industry and its agricultural impact, personal appearance and presentation skills.
The team was sponsored by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. DMR is working with Mississippi 4-H to create a statewide seafood cook-off contest by 2013.