July 4, 2022

Heather Bailey - Culinary Arts

Heather Bailey - Culinary Arts

To some people ninety minutes would seem like a long time, but when you are under pressure it is amazing how quickly it can go. So when two other classmates and myself found out that we were going to be competing in the 6th annual NECI Culinary Classic competition we were ready to give it all we had.

We were not picked at random. Everyone in our Culinary Arts program went against each other in an Iron Chef based competition, and the students with the three highest combined scores were picked to compete at NECI. We had practiced the whole week before the competition. Kyle and Charlie, my parteners, worked together on the Broccoli and Chicken with a thyme Beurre Blanc,  Tomato and Bean soup and Risotto. I worked on the Crêpes. In previous years, we had done a butterfly  Crêpe but we needed to do something even more original. Finally, we decided on Crêpe roses over caramel and apples. But when we got to the competition, I found out that we had everything for the Crêpes except for the cream which is crucial to any caramel. Right before the competition started, our team was having our last few words with Chef and we decided that I would try the caramel without any cream. When we were told it was our time to start, I put my sugar on with some water and let it dissolve, which was my first step in preparing the dessert. Then I added the butter, waited for it to brown and set it off to the side. Five minutes later I went to stir it and the mixture had become a solid mass. I looked up at the clock and knew that I needed to think of something, and soon. While Kyle and Charlie were right on track with their dishes, I ran over to the ingredient table and found some blueberries, reduced them down and made a Blueberry Coulis.

With two minutes left to spare, Charlie, Kyle and I brought our dishes to the judging table. Finally, we had time to breathe. We over looked our work and knew that we had given it our all. As we waited for the judges to tally up the scores, we ate lunch and talked over the competition with our other classmates. Before we knew it, we were listening to them announce what tech school placed where. After 3rd place had gone by, some of our group looked down and figured that we did not place this year because HACTC had never placed higher than third. When second place was announced, “Hartford Area Career and Technology Center,” we all leapt for a moment of excitement and continued up to the podium to shake the hands of the Chefs who had judged us. But we did not just get certificates; we received new knife kits, and 2,000 scholarship to NECI. As we all looked at each other grasping our certificates, we knew that we could not have gotten that far with the amount of each other. We would not even be there competing without Chef, Mrs. L and the rest of our class’s support.  

In the near future, I will go to college and major in baking and pastry. This experience has taught me so many things such as how to work under pressure, teamwork and helped me work on my cooking skills. Without HACTC I am not sure I would know what I to go to college for but the Culinary Arts program has opened my eyes to my true passion.