Texarkana College's Culinary Arts students concluded the final student round of their fourth annual "Chopped" cooking competition last week.
Much like the made-for-television competition, student participants are given a box of four items to incorporate into an entrée within a specific time frame — 45 minutes.
The ingredients that were in the Championship Round were:
beer battered onion rings
The dishes were graded on flavor, presentation and use of ingredients by a panel of six judges. It counts as the course's final exam grade.
Culinary instructor Sheila Lynn said she chose a box, instead of a basket, to put the ingredients in for a reason.
"I have a big sign outside my classroom that says 'Think outside the box.,' and I tell them all the time to get outside that box that people put you in," Lynn said. "Sometimes, whether it be society, culture, family, yourself, race, whatever — that sometimes people put you in a box and expect that's where you're going to stay. And it's up to them to get out of it."
Seven students were able to compete in the beginning rounds, before three students were selected for the final rounds and a winner was named. Jim Hensley, a TC culinary student and current employee at Benchmark American Brasserie, was the winner. Kima Shavers and Amber Collum tied for second.
Hensley was to face off with Chef Lynn in the Champion round this Friday, but the round was postponed due to time constraints.
Lynn said it was a tough decision to have to delay the round, as she won't yet be able to continue her winning streak.
"This is the fourth time we've had it, and I have barely beat them out each time," she said. "Somebody asked me one time, 'What if your student wins?' And I said well, 'Then I win.' It's a win-win situation for me, because if they win, I did my job right."
Lynn said the competition is a way to teach her students to be adaptable and overcome unforeseen circumstances that you may see as a chef. She said displaying that ability to think effectively to think on one's feet build confidence.
"The main thing is that they learn confidence and that they realize what they're capable of doing, in limited ingredients and time," she said. "Some of the ones going through class that you would think wouldn't do so hot — they were some of the best ones. And then some of the best students tend to freeze up sometimes. So, you never know what's going to happen in any competition."
Lynn hopes they can pick up where they left off and have the Champion Challenge after the holiday breaks.