Student chefs win big bucks for college

Last year, I had the privilege to write about an impressive group of students who cooked their way into culinary arts programs in many of the country’s top schools.

I wasn’t surprised. The intensity and focus with which those student chefs sliced, diced, puréed and sauteed, was something to envy — and to drool over as well.

Their skills, recognized by some of Philadelphia’s top chefs, have paid off.

Eleven high school seniors were awarded $267,000 in scholarships, cash and merchandise during an awards ceremony recently after competing in an annual cooking competition sponsored by Careers through Culinary Arts Program, or C-CAP.

The group’s founder, Richard Grausman, handed the aspiring chefs checks ranging from $1,000 to more than $90,000 to attend some of the country’s top culinary schools. During the competition held last month, C-CAP re-created the intensity of a four-star restaurant kitchen for the high school seniors to face off in a challenge.

In just two hours, each competitor prepared from memory a two-course French dinner — Sûpreme Poulet Chasseur avec Pommes Château and Crêpes Sucrées with Crème Pâtissière and Sauce au Chocolat (Translation: N/A).

Some of their culinary creations even rivaled that of their more experienced counterparts (although I admit I know little to nothing about gourmet cooking).

Though there’s little doubt in my mind that these lil’ chefs got talent, some of the praise should go to the instructors who for hours slaved over menus, perfecting the meal themselves before pushing their charges to do the same.

Frankford High School, a frequent competition frontrunner, and one of three schools to enter this year, once again won top honors this year:

Their students are:

- Leon Miller won a $17,500 Le Cordon Bleu full-tuition scholarship; he also won a $1,000 C-CAP Education Scholarship.

- Karla Vazquez won a $2,700 matching scholarship to the New England Culinary Institute; she also won a $5,000 C-CAP Education Scholarship.

- Jonathan Diaz won a $3,000 C-CAP Education Scholarship.

- Ricardo Calcano won a $44,500 scholarship to the Art Institute of Philadelphia.

- Ciara Smith won a whopping $95,820 full-tuition scholarship to Johnson and Wales, while Katherine Taveras won a $34,200 scholarship to Monroe College.

Other winners include:

A. Philip Randolph students: Amirah Salaam who won a $2,000 C-CAP Education scholarship. Her classmates Diana Nino and Kacy Riley nabbed $3,000 C-CAP education scholarships.

Not to be outdone, Daniel Jackson, a senior at Dobbins High School won $4,500 to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

His classmate, Brianna Wellmon, will take $49,980 to the Culinary Institute of America, with an additional stipend of $1,500.