CULINARY SKILLS

Jeena Hartzell, a Mohave High School and Mohave Community College student, adds cumin-glazed carrots to Jennifer Wolston’s plate Wednesday during the MCC Culinary Arts Students SkillsFest.  

BULLHEAD CITY — Cindy Tonielli wanted her guests Wednesday afternoon to not only see her students’ talent but to taste it.

Hence the first Mohave Community College Culinary Arts Students SkillsFest.

Tonielli, resident culinary arts faculty at MCC, said the event, at which invited guests were treated to a variety of harvest-time vittles, was designed to show off what the program’s students could do.

Also, she said, it’s a way for students to meet local food service professionals.

Each student created a recipe, Tonielli said, with the results combining into a “harvest fair”-themed menu.

Tonielli said that her department has had showcases before, but typically a formal sit-down affair. She said the new event allowed for more interaction between students and the public.

The theme manifested itself in comfort foods and fall flavors. 

Comfort foods, but not always comfort zones. The students decided to try some new things with some food items. The appetizers were apricot ricotta honey basil bites and pear hazelnut and blue cheese on red endive.

First-course offerings were harvest vegetable soup and roasted Brussels sprouts and apple salad.

The main courses were citrus sage turkey breast and honey-glazed ham, with sides that included roasted butternut squash and spinach, cumin-glazed carrots and cranberry rice pilaf.

For dessert, there were chili chocolate crisps with chocolate mousse and salted caramel pumpkin profiteroles.

Lisa Black of GEO group said she enjoyed the meal, describing “balance” as its key characteristic — the balance of flavors within each dish and the balance the dishes lent to one another.

She identified the soup as her favorite item.

“The allspice in the soup just set off the flavor of the vegetables and the broth,” she said. ”I needed a bigger bowl.”

She also said the students did a good job with the meats. Black said it’s difficult to cook white-meat turkey without it getting dried out.

“It was moist and tender and juicy,” she said. “The ham was the same way; it was not dry or tough. It was tender and had a lot of flavor to it.”

Tonielli said she wanted guests to leave with a better understanding of what the students are doing and that they are learning “to be fearless with flavor.”

She also hoped the visitors would be impressed by the students’ skills.

Black was.

“You can tell when a chef has talent,” Black said. “When they really care about what they’re cooking, it comes through in the flavor.”

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