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Las Vegas Culinary Students Participate in Celebrity Cooking Challenge, Win Scholarships

June 3, 2014 Le Cordon Bleu Las Vegas, Le Cordon Bleu 0 Comments

In May 2014 two worthy Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Las Vegas students had the privilege of participating in an intense culinary competition during the famous Vegas Uncork’d event. The 30-minute cooking challenge involved a mystery box of ingredients and celebrity chef partners Mario Batali and Cake Boss Buddy V.

In the end, only one of the two student contestants could win, but ask anyone who watched the competition and they’ll tell you both competitors Brooke Worley and Kelly Ricker did a tremendous job. Brooke (partnered with Mario Batali) won first place with a $20,000 scholarship and Kelly (partnered with Cake Boss Buddy V.) placed second and won a $5,000 scholarship.

“It cannot be overstated what kind of experience this was for both the contestants and our campus,” said Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Las Vegas President Lachlan Sands. “Both students walked away with scholarship money and future job offers from both chefs, and most everyone here on campus was excited by the event and celebrated from start to finish. We will undoubtedly participate again next year.”

Vegas Uncork’d Event

About the Annual Vegas Uncork’d Event

CHASE Sapphire Preferred and Bon Appetit host the food and wine celebration every year, which spans four days and several Las Vegas hotels. The culinary student challenge took place on May 8th during the “Night Market” at the Venetian Hotel. There were hundreds of event attendees there to snack on a variety of Asian-inspired tastes and to watch the competition.

This is the second year that Le Cordon Bleu Las Vegas participated in the Uncork’d competition. (Last year’s winner was Todd Huelsman.) Dozens of students applied this year with an essay that responded to the question, “Why do I deserve this scholarship?” The Bon Appetit review committee selected the two essay contest winners based on creativity, clarity, and originality.

After being selected, Kelly and Brooke learned that the competition would focus on pork and on grilling, which allowed them some time to practice their plating, grilling, and techniques. But nothing could have prepared them for the actual stress and intensity of the competition, something neither of them will surely forget.

Vegas Uncork’d Event

How the Competition Worked

The culinary competition starts off with each of the teams spending 30 minutes discussing the contents of the mystery box and their approach to cooking a winning dish. The teams were instructed to grill heirloom pork chops with an Asian influence. The chefs had access to a stocked pantry including a variety of Asian ingredients such as sauces, vegetables, and the staples you’d expect.

From here, the heat was turned up. The clock started and the chefs got to work with hundreds of eyes on their every move. Then, halfway through, a surprise ingredient was introduced, Chinese fermented wine.

Surprisingly, both teams created similar dishes— a hoisin miso glaze pork chop—with only slight variations. Kelly’s dish started with an Asian slaw atop the pork chop which rested on Udon noodles, while Brooke’s dish started with a warm spinach salad atop the pork chop which rested on an Udon noodle pillow.

Competition was tight, but since there can only be one at the top, the three-judge panel chose Brooke and Mario based on technique, presentation, and flavor.

In addition to the $20,000 and $5,000 scholarships awarded to the student contestants, Le Cordon Bleu Las Vegas also received $5,000 for their scholarship fund. Many more Le Cordon Bleu students will benefit from this alliance.

The 2015 Vegas Uncork’d Competition

Le Cordon Bleu Las Vegas will participate in the culinary competition again next year. The application process will begin in early April 2015. In the meantime, visit the Le Cordon Bleu Facebook page to see more pictures of the 2014 competition.


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