HCC Central culinary arts students win national awards

Oct 8, 2014

To be clear: These are not culinary arts students preparing to work in someone's restaurant for minimum wage. They're future chefs and business owners... and highly creative and award-winning ones at that.

Warren M. Watson and Erica Anderson each won honors - second place for Anderson and fifth place for Watson - in the student category of Maple Leaf Farms' annual Discover Duck Recipe Contest.  

The Milford, Indiana-based, family owned business received 275  entries - 213 from professional chefs and 63 from culinary students - from across the country. The contest called for contestants to create original recipes using Maple Leaf Farms' duck product in an unconventional way. Only the top five professional recipes and the top five culinary student recipes received awards.

Anderson's recipe - Duck Liver Cheesecake with Red Currant Sauce - is a decadent dessert, she says. Watson's entry - Ginger & Leek Duck Chowder - is a tender comfort food, he says. Each student will receive a $500 check and a Maple Leaf Farms roll knife set. 

"I was completely shocked when I learned that I had won an award," says Anderson. "My professor, (HCC Central culinary chef instructor) Charles Rucker, told me that he thought I had a good chance of winning because my idea was unique and fit the 'unconventional' criteria. I really liked my idea. I immediately thought to make a dessert because, in my opinion, it is the most unconventional way to use a protein."

Watson was equally astounded by his victory. "When I heard I won a prize I was so emotionally flabbergasted that I almost started crying," he says. "I was so excited. I love chowder. It (the recipe) just came to me. I was downstairs in a classroom, and I know ginger goes with so many things, and chef Nick Bolen said he wanted everyone to enter and to go and create. Winning feels unbelievable." 

Anderson, who chose HCC Central's culinary arts program because of its affordability, says she'll pay for her upcoming classes with her winnings "and maybe spend the day at a spa." Her career goals include "having my own bistro and several best-selling cookbooks."

Watson comes from a talented food-preparing family. "My mother and grandmother were great cooks," he says. Watson enrolled in HCC Central's culinary arts program at the urging of friends. "They really liked my food and said, 'you need to go to school for this.' I'm 51 years old. You're never too old to go to school." Watson, who also is a docent at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum near HCC Central, intends to become a personal chef or open a catering business.

The recipes Anderson and Watson created are now the property of Maple Leaf Farms. Information about the 2014 contest is available online. The grand-prize recipes are listed there. Anderson's and Watson's recipes will be listed at a later date. 

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