Meridian Star

February 5, 2014

EMCC wins fourth DECA culinary competition

Special to The Star
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     BYRAM – East Mississippi Community College is dominating the Mississippi Culinary DECA competition.

    Not only did EMCC earn its fourth consecutive win at the competition, held Wednesday at Unified Brands commercial kitchen equipment retailer in Byram, but its A and B teams earned first and second place.

    “I had all the faith and confidence in them, but I knew we had really stiff competition from other schools. We set the bar high and I was nervous about keeping it up for a fourth year,” said Dr. Linda Farrar, head of the Culinary Arts and Hotel & Restaurant Management programs at EMCC’s Lion Hills campus in Columbus.

    The first-place team consisted of Joey Hansford and Quintin Hall, both of whom competed on the winning team in 2013, and Ali Browne, all of Starkville.

    The second-place team consisted of Brenda Lobato Ford of Starkville, Kimberly Mixon of West Point and Reggie Ward of Starkville.

    “Both teams had to find time between school and work to practice. It’s amazing how well they all had to work together, because they weren’t just judged on how their food tasted,” said Farrar.

    All eight competing teams were assigned pork tenderloin as their core ingredient and then had to conceptualize how they would prepare the pork and create sides. Each team was given a set amount of money to buy ingredients at a local grocery store, then returned to Unified Brands to cook their dishes.

    “The facility is amazing. There’s probably $1 million worth of equipment in that place. Stainless steel everywhere. It’s a quantity food producer’s dream,” said Farrar of the Unified Brands kitchen.

    In addition to being judged on taste, presentation, sanitation and safety, the teams were tasked with pricing the ingredients, assigning a menu price and developing a marketing strategy. Two chefs and three marketing instructors judged the competition.

    “When they were announcing the winners and announced third place and still hadn’t called us, we couldn’t believe it. The first time a group goes to competition they normally don’t win because there are so many criteria,” said Farrar.

    EMCC’s teams received additional praise when Steve D’Angelo, corporate chef at Unified Brands, who has worked as a chef at Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans restaurant among other high profile restaurants, told Farrar privately that both of EMCC’s teams had “beaten the rest of the competitors hands down on sanitation and safety.”

    “That fits right in with our goals this year. Our mission is pride, professionalism and perfection,” said Farrar.

    EMCC’s Culinary DECA teams will receive their awards during the State DECA competition Feb. 27 in Biloxi, where other programs such as business and marketing will compete. They will also compete in National DECA competition in April in Washington D.C.

    The Culinary program will also send a team to compete in the Mississippi Skills USA competition  Feb. 26 in Jackson.