NEW YORK — The stakes were high Tuesday as 19 young chefs from New York City high schools whisked crepe batter, chopped herbs and seared chicken breasts in a competition for scholarships worth up to $100,000.
The two-hour cooking challenge at the Institute for Culinary Education in Manhattan was part of the Careers through Culinary Arts Program, or C-CAP, which has awarded nearly 5,000 scholarships since it began in 1990.
The program started in New York and has expanded to seven locations including Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. It has helped to train hundreds of culinary professionals, a couple of whom were back Tuesday as judges.
"It made all the difference in being where I am today in my career," said Kelvin Fernandez, 25, a graduate of the program who is now chef de cuisine at the Strand Hotel in Manhattan. "It gives you the opportunity to network."
The atmosphere in the two adjoining kitchens where the students wielded knives and sautÃ© pans was intense. The students were required to prepare two recipes: a classic French chicken dish and dessert crepes with pastry cream and chocolate sauce.
Each student carefully laid out his or her mise en place — salt, pepper, butter, mushrooms, eggs. They yelled "Behind, behind!" as they rushed around the crowded kitchens.
Hansel Serra from the High School for Hospitality Management was the picture of concentration as he placed a towel under his cutting board to steady it, then began dicing shallots.
Serra's shallots ended up chopped so finely they could have been mistaken for grains of rice. His parsley and tarragon were tiny specks of green.
"It's in the wrist, really," he said afterward.
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