Ed Tompkins and I have just finished eating 12 different dishes prepared by Horizon Community Learning Center students and I think I finally know what it feels like to be Gordon Ramsey, but maybe just a bit nicer.
"This is a tough decision," he says to me as we are both looking over our score sheets.
We were selected to judge and pick a winner for John Tamburino's cooking classes at Horizon on Thursday morning. The early class, that was a little easier selection with an almost perfectly done Pad Thai stealing the show for us. Did I mention some of these kids are 14 years old and are making Pad Thai? It was a pretty impressive showcase of plating and cooking.
The second class was a little more difficult. The first group served a shrimp scampi dish with linguini, decent, but their dessert was excellent - a broiled pineapple slice topped with brown sugar, and possibly butter. Quick and simple, but also delicious. They set the bar for the remaining two groups.
The second group had the best entrée - pasta with a tasty red sauce and spicy chicken sausage. Yeah, they didn't actually make the sausage like you might see in these cooking shows, but they cooked it perfectly.
Unfortunately, the dessert just didn't stack up. It was a tart with fresh fruit on top - good, but not up to par with the rest.
The third group was solid in both categories. They made their own alfredo sauce, sauteed it with shrimp, and laid it over a bed of linguini. It was the right amount of sauce and the shrimp was cooked well enough.
Their dessert was a chocolate lava cake with ice cream, maybe a little underdone in the center because it kind of oozed like chocolate pudding, but it still tasted incredible.
So there we sat, looking at how best to score the last dishes. There were five categories that Tamburino wanted us to judge them by - taste; appearance; creativity; consumer appeal; and knowledge of recipe. It was hard not to get carried away. I have worked in restaurants and around food for about a quarter of my life, but I am by no means an expert, unless you count being a restless addict to cooking shows, specifically those made by Ramsey.
"What's your gut say?" I asked him, pun intended.
"I think the last group was the most solid across the board," he said, and while I really liked the second entrée, he was right, both their entrée and dessert were practically free from criticism.
And then you feel bad because you know you might hurt some kid's feelings. To justify it, being in a creative field like culinary arts, and some of these students definitely had the talent to build a career off of, you have to take criticism, especially if it is constructive, which we tried our very best to give. It probably didn't come out quite as eloquent as some of the judges you see on television, but we're new at it and still learning.
I want to thank John Tamburino and his students for giving me the opportunity to try and judge their creations. Being a fan of those shows, I was looking forward to this opportunity since he mentioned it to me as a possibility months ago.
I enjoyed trying all the different dishes and, if they would have me back, I would definitely like to do it again next time.
I will work on channeling my inner Gordon Ramsey until then.
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