You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myPalmBeachPost.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myPalmBeachPost.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myPalmBeachPost.com.

breaking news

Suspect in 2016 Boca drug deal slaying to appear in court today

Who is chopped? PBC Superintendent faces culinary students in cook-off


How does Palm Beach County School Superintendent Robert Avossa hold up under an hour of intense pressure? Well, his work space gets a little messy, the onions go everywhere. Throw in the question of whether carrots belong in an Italian sauce, and the “My mama” throw-downs start flying, as in “My mother would kill me” if the orange root hit the red stuff.

Still, team Avossa, complete with the school district’s director of Choice and Career Options Pete Licata and two student assistants, made a valiant effort … and a moist, tender pan fried chicken Parmesan.

Yet the plate wasn’t enough to beat the students representing William T. Dwyer High School’s culinary institute.

Face it, when the judge from The Breakers in Palm Beach says he loved your sausage and chard combo so much “I could use a whole gallon of that,” well, you’ve made it.

And so went the first cooking challenge issued by the superintendent to the more than 3,000 students enrolled in the district’s 12 high school and seven middle school culinary academies.

The challenge went out on Facebook and while many schools wanted a piece of the action, it was Dwyer’s name that was subsequently pulled from the hat. Its culinary program is about a decade old and more than 350 students strong.

“We’ve got some of the best culinary programs I’ve ever seen and these kids are serious,” Avossa boasted even before he tied on the apron and fell to their prowess – including a surprising play on spaghetti squash that involved a hint of lemon zest.

Avossa never studied cooking but he grew up working in his family’s restaurants, where the recipes came from his parents’ Italian heritage. His wing man Friday, Licata, is another home cook and fellow Italian – though their roots from different regions became the source of the battle of that orange root.

Licata says his family from northern Italy likes to sweeten the sauce with carrots and retrieve them before serving. Avossa used the executive veto on that proposal.

High school seniors Jackey Farias and Merri Juarez and junior Jenny Doung have been honing their skills in kitchens of their Palm Beach Gardens campus for a couple of years.

They’ve learned the techniques in class and polished their service at catering assignments such as the softball team dinner earlier this week. (Chef Leo Renzette, who heads the program, said he seeks enough catering jobs for the academy to double his budget each year.)

But Wednesday offered a unique challenge, the so-called Chopped Mystery Box.

Must-use ingredients are revealed in the minutes before the clock is set. Unlike the TV show that inspired the challenge and sometimes throws big curve balls like use this bag of Cheetos or that ox tail to make an entree, the Dwyer mystery foods were not miles out of the box: chicken, sausage, eggplant, squash, broccoli, chard and potatoes.

While the adults sweated it out like a superintendent waiting for the buses to arrive on the first day of school, the students worked like a well-oiled Cuisinart, all speed and action.

They didn’t even bat an eye when faced with a vegetable they’d never met – that squash that shreds like pasta. Or a combo they’d never considered – sausage goes with chard?

“I’ve been watching ‘Chopped,’ ” said Farias, who volunteered to take on the schools chief.

“You were poised, confident, calm,” praised Chef Frank Eucalitto, owner of Café Chardonnay in Palm Beach Gardens, and one of five judges.

“Your teamwork was outstanding,” agreed fellow judge and Palm Beach Post food critic Liz Balmaseda.

The panel was rounded out by Nick Velardo, The Breakers’ director of food and beverage; Jason Emmett, president of Duffy’s Sports Grill; and Sylvia Tricarico, a retired teacher and founder of the culinary program at Santaluces High, one of the district’s first culinary academies.

The winners earned a trophy but also two sets of professional kitchen knives. The school will keep one set, but there was talk of sending the other with Farias to her next stop: culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Miami.

“I knew they could do it,” said Renzette, an award winning chef who has worked at local faves including the Sundy House and 32 East in Delray Beach. “I’m very impressed with my students, very, very proud.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Employee at West Palm Publix accused of stealing from co-worker
Employee at West Palm Publix accused of stealing from co-worker

A West Palm Beach man is accused of stealing a fellow Publix employee’s credit cards then running up charges at a Walmart, according to an arrest report. Jornan Diaz, 18, is facing nine counts of fraud and one larceny count and was released from the Palm Beach County Jail March 16 after posting a $30,000 bond. » Download our PostNOW app...
NEW: Trainer’s license revoked when greyhounds test positive for drugs
NEW: Trainer’s license revoked when greyhounds test positive for drugs

A greyhound trainer based at the Palm Beach Kennel Club had his licensed revoked this month after state investigators found 24 instances where dogs under his care tested positive for drugs before races in 2016. Yoanly Savon’s license was revoked March 8 by the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering within the Florida Department of Business and Professional...
Small dog dropped off at West Palm Beach clinic with mouth bound shut
Small dog dropped off at West Palm Beach clinic with mouth bound shut

Veterinarians are working to save the life of a 1-year-old pup who was dropped off at an animal clinic with its mouth bound so tight it cut to the bone. The 7-pound Yorkshire Terrier mix, named Pixie, had an elastic hair tie around her snout that cut a 3/4-inch-deep gash between her eyes and nose, Paws 2 Help founder Eve Van Engel said late Sunday...
Suspect in 2016 Boca drug deal slaying to appear in court today
Suspect in 2016 Boca drug deal slaying to appear in court today

A man believed to be a suspect in a 2016 fatal shooting in Boca Raton has been transported to Palm Beach County Jail and will appear in court Monday morning. Matthew Lewis, 23, faces charges of second-degree murder with a firearm in the June 2016 death of 25-year-old Jacob Walsh. Lewis was booked into the county jail on Saturday. Download our PostNOW...
FHP investigating fatal crash on I-95 in Fort Pierce
FHP investigating fatal crash on I-95 in Fort Pierce

A fatal crash on southbound Interstate 95 early Monday has prompted authorities to close a rest area in St. Lucie County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The crash, near mile marker 132 in Fort Pierce, was reported shortly before 4:40 a.m. Check our live traffic map to plan your commute. FHP’s traffic incidents website said a rest area...
More Stories