Students at the Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts employed their homegrown ingredients as they faced off in a Black Box Challenge to earn scholarship funds and bragging rights last week.
Assiniboine Community College hosted its annual Black Box Culinary Competition on April 9-10, sponsored by Manitoba Pork and the Manitoba Canola Growers Association.
Competing students created two dishes in a three-hour time crunch using only select ingredients from a supplied black box.
“The students love this competition. It gives them a chance to practise their skills, try out some new things, and be creative,“ said culinary arts instructor, Bryan Hendricks.
The chefs were required to create an appetizer and entrée that included certain pork and canola products. They were put to the test by a panel of judges who critiqued not only taste, but also knife skills, cooking methods, presentation, organization, sanitation, flavour, texture and creative use of the supplied ingredients.
Students required at least a 3.5 GPA in the first term to qualify for the challenge.
First-year student, Kelsie Gardner earned the top spot in the Manitoba Pork competition, claiming $800 in scholarship money with her potato bacon chowder and roasted apple-stuffed pork loin and apple, pecan, sage and cider cream sauce.
“You should be proud. These were exceptional dishes across the board. Pork can be a challenging protein to get right, but all of these have been cooked perfectly,“ said Derek Woychyshyn, one of three judges and owner of Brandon’s Komfort Kitchen.
Nick Ewasiuk claimed first place in the MCGA competition, earning $1,000 with his duck taco and honey Dijon vinaigrette slaw appetizer and crusted rack of lamb entreé with champagne potatoes, sautéed asparagus, broiled tomatoes and raspberry cream sauce.
“Timing is always a big challenge and I had a few things that didn’t go to plan. But all in all I was pretty happy with what I plated today,” said Ewasiuk.
“These are the only Black Box Challenges that we hold that are in conjunction with scholarship prize money,” said ACC development officer, Michelle Atamanchuk. “Both Manitoba Pork and the MCGA have been fantastic supporters of ours over the years and are certainly a great support for the students, what we do here and the ingredients that are offered to us.”
The MCGA has the naming rights of the institute’s culinary theatre and both organizations regularly offer products for students to use.
“It is a really great partnership and we strive to have a great relationship with all the food source organizations because we really believe in our field-to-fork concept,” said Atamanchuk.
ACC’s field-to-fork concept is a collection of initiatives dedicated to strengthening the local food chain through education, research and outreach.
Last fall, students in the horticulture production and sustainable food systems program harvested 1,400 kilograms of crops from grow plots, orchards and greenhouses, all of which were then used in the Manitoba Institute for Culinary Arts throughout the year.
Through this collaboration of programs, students are exposed to research and education from the entire food cycle — from seeding through to the dinner table.