Somewhere an engraver is getting used to putting the words “Onondaga Community College” and “Champion” on cooking competition plaques. In November, four students enrolled in the Hospitality Management major traveled to Canandaigua and earned first place honors in the New York Beef Council’s Veal Culinary Tour and Competition. “We’re just really proud,” said OCC faculty member and Chef Deb Schneider. “It’s a great accomplishment for our students and our program.”
Student teams from OCC’s Hospitality Management major have made a habit of winning these competitions. In each of the last three years during the month of May, students have earned first place honors in the Beef Farm Tour and Culinary Competition. Those were also held in Canandaigua.
Planning and preparation for this November’s competition began shortly after the start of the fall semester. Four students were selected to compete: Brandon Clary (Oswego H.S.), Alex Courgi (Fayetteville-Manlius (H.S.), Lexi LaFountain (Town of Webb H.S. in Old Forge) and Chris Sheppard (Corcoran H.S.).
College teams would be required to make veal schnitzel sliders while using only six ingredients. There were limits to which items could be used, also known as the “market basket.” “We got around it by making our own,” said Schneider. “Instead of taking sauerkraut out of a can we made our own and added caraway to it to give it more flavor. We made our own mustard and added beer to it which was part of the recipe.” The sauerkraut and beer each took four weeks to make. Students also made slider rolls.
In the months leading up to the competition students gathered regularly to practice making their recipes. “We worked on this every Monday for the past two months to make it really good,” said LaFountain. “Through our practice we’d done this enough times so we knew what we were doing,” added Clary.
By the time the competition began OCC’s team was ready. They were competing against five other colleges: Alfred State, SUNY Cobleskill, Erie Community College, Finger Lakes Community College and Morrisville State College. OCC won first place! “It was really fun… It was a very exciting experience for all of us,” said Shepard. OCC’s team was presented with a check for $2,000 which was split evenly between the four students.
The event also included lectures, presentations and tours of a veal producer and Noblehurst Farms, a dairy farm in western New York. It was quite an experience for students like Courgi. “I had never been on a dairy farm. It was very interesting to see the whole process and how things work.”
Congratulations to OCC’s team! You can watch a video produced by the New York Beef Council here.