PRESS PHOTOS BY JOANNA IRELANDThe ingredients in the mystery basket included striped bass, pretzels, ramen noodles, a chicken, Japanese eggplant, a can of corn, kiwi, red cabbage, shoulder bacon and Hot Tamales, donated by Just Born. The contestants had access to the kitchen’s pantry for all other ingredients.
Luke Guensch contemplates how to prepare his chicken. Ultimately, it became the appetizer, served with a vegetable puree. Guensch also served a broccoli salad with grilled striped bass as the main course.
Rebecca Suta begins to plate her main dish: Striped bass with coconut milk rice and mixed vegetables. She also made purple cabbage salad and marinated chicken wings and drums for the appetizer.
Andrea Moretti chops chicken which eventually becomes chicken saltimbocca with an amber beer sauce and seasoned vegetables. He topped his corn chowder with a crunchy pretzel crouton and fried onions and served a ginger sea bass semi crudo on an Asian fresh vegetable pinzimonio for an appetizer.
Kailee Dube’s meal includes fried sea bass served with cream sauce on a bed of polenta, a mixed green salad with a kiwi and lemon vinaigrette, and seasoned chicken with coconut sauce on a bed of ramen noodles.
Matthew Campesi in the early stages of preparing encrusted bass, a southwestern-style cream soup inspired by the Hot Tamales, and pan-seared chicken.
Gina Pearson prepares a grilled chicken with peanut sauce, Pho soup with noodles and crispy ham, and a pan-seared sea bass with roasted eggplant, cabbage slaw, cous cous, and tomato-cucumber salad.
David Kucharczuk’s bacon cheddar and potato-filled pierogi accompanies a sea bass coconut curry soup, tropical slaw salad and chicken paprikash.
Hannah Georgis’ brown butter chicken in eggplant stock, a mixed greens salad, and sea bass with mushroom wild rice.
Mystery cooking competition
Transforming a basket of ingredients into a tasty meal
Eight culinary students competed May 18 in the annual mystery basket cooking competition at Northampton Community College’s Hampton Winds Restaurant for a chance to win a scholarship to attend a weeklong externship at one of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans restaurants.
Six judges evaluated the contestants in seven categories: texture/doneness, taste/balance of flavors, proper cooking techniques, plating, sanitation/organization, overall technique/ portion size, and creativity with using the mystery basket ingredients.
Each contestant was given three hours to prepare an appetizer, soup or salad, and main dish—dessert was optional. The students were Matthew Campesi, Kailee Dube, Hannah Georgis, Luke Guensch, David Kucharczuk, Andrea Moretti, Gina Pearson and Rebecca Suta.
Lagasse announced the winners during his live cooking demonstration at the Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Festival June 1. All eight competitors found out they had won an all-expense paid scholarship.
The festival ran from June 1 through 3 at the Sands Casino and Resort.