Student cooks go stovetop-to-stovetop during DODEA-Pacific competition
Stars and Stripes February 10, 2023
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Dominic Farris, 17, a senior at Kadena High School, orchestrated a first-place win for his team at the Pacific Far East Culinary Arts Competition for Defense Department schools recently.
His strategy: communicate and expedite, he told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday during the two-day event at Yokota High School in western Tokyo.
“I'm just yelling because I know that I need to tell my team, ‘this needs to go off, this needs to go, you guys have five minutes left, we're running out of time,’” Farris said. “Because if you're not able to tell your team what's going on, they're going to fall behind.”
The actual competition, hindered in recent years by the COVID-19 pandemic, resumed this year.
Culinary artists from 10 schools in Department of Defense Education Activity Pacific competed: Yokota High, Zama Middle High School, Edgren Middle High School, Nile C. Kinnick High School, EJ King High School and M.C. Perry High School from main-island Japan; Kadena and Kubasaki high schools on Okianwa; and Osan and Humphreys high schools in South Korea, Ida Cardwell, Career Technical Education instructional specialist and event organizer, said Tuesday.
The menu comprised the playing field: an entrée of sauteed chicken breast in a mustard cream sauce, cranberry rice pilaf and a fresh broccoli sauté; fruit and salad appetizers; and, for dessert, apple crisp with whipped cream. Each team had a $35 budget for their ingredients and an hour to prepare the three-course meal.
They cooked according to their own playbooks. Carson Durst, 16, a sophomore at Yokota, turned a special play in the cream sauce.
“For my secret ingredient in the sauce I used cooking wine, which was reduced … instead of chicken broth,” he said, “and the judges thought that was outstanding.”
‘Let me try that’
Floor judges graded the students on professional appearance and personal hygiene, safety and sanitation, planning and organizing, and production. Tasting judges sampled the plated meals.
“Presentation is important,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Szafranski of Yokota’s Force Support Squadron, who judged the entrées Tuesday with two other judges.
“It has to look presentable and appealing to the eyes – if it looks presentable and looks really nice, and you're just like, ‘Ooh, that looks good,’” he said. “Like, let me try that.’”
Judges checked cooking methods, proportion sizes, texture and flavor.
“I’ve enjoyed the creativity of the plates,” Szafranski said. “And the diversity that the teams have made to the dishes, they have all been unique and different.”
The winners came forward after cooking and cleanup was complete.
Edgren and Kubasaki tied for third place. Yokota placed second.
The top chefs at Kadena were hungry for the win. Farris, picked for the culinary team as a freshman, was unable to compete until now thanks to the pandemic.
“Being able to come here and win on my first official Far East competition after having every previous one being canceled before, it feels good,” Farris said.