“Taste of the Cowboys Challenge”
Student Chefs Join Legends and Dairy MAX in Mastering the “Taste of the Cowboys Challenge”
The Fuel Up Training Table at The Star in Frisco was the site of an intense Iron Chef-style competition during Friday night’s Taste of the Cowboys Challenge featuring local high school culinary teams which created delicious and nutritious three-course meals. The Dairy MAX, official nutrition partner of the Dallas Cowboys, teamed with Legends Hospitality to host the event which benefitted the North Texas Food Bank.
The four teams were comprised of students from the culinary programs at Allen High School, The Colony High School, Dallas Skyline High School, and Richardson High School. By the end of the competition, the teams earned a combined $3,000 in grant funds for their respective programs.
Orazio LaManna, our Legends Regional Executive Chef better known as “Chef O”, coordinated the competition along with Joe Looney.
Looney, the Cowboys’ offensive lineman who admittedly comes by his nickname ‘Jumbo Joe’ because he’s a food aficionado, served double-duty at the contest as celebrity judge and emcee.
“I loved it, the opportunity to be a judge and helping emcee, because it was great to see the smiles on the kids’ faces,” said Looney. “I was really impressed by the caliber of their culinary skills. When I was 16 years old, I could barely tie my shoes much less prepare a full meal. But these culinary teams did a great job.
“It was also important to share our message which is to look at nutrition as a way to fuel your body. As NFL players, our bodies are machines and we have to put the right fuel in the machine in order to perform properly on Sundays. The message applies to everyone in their daily lives, starting early when we’re still in school.”
Each of the four teams had one hour to create, prepare, and plate a full three-course meal utilizing products that are commonly donated to food banks and their food insecure clients. Teams earned extra bonus points for incorporating a secret ingredient revealed at the start of the contest: dairy. Teams also had to make sure their meals represented all five of the MyPlate food groups including protein, grains, vegetables, fruit, and dairy.
By the end of the hour-long extravaganza, a veritable feast of creative, nutritious, and savory dishes worthy of five-star restaurants were being lauded by Chef O, the judges, and the entire Legends culinary crew.
Kudos to the following students and their chef instructors who drew rave reviews for their creations:
Allen High School – Kaleb Carper, Jose Hernandez (who was celebrating his 18thbirthday the day of the competition), Reyes de la Oliva Gonzalez Aleman, Austin Tye, and Chef Instructor Annie Greenslade.
The Colony High School – Celeste Gutierrez, Alex Meza, Luke Ruiz, Jayla Washington, and Chef Instructor Amanda Bensley (known to her students at “Chef B”). – And an extra note of thanks to the student cheering section from The Colony that added energy, volume, and hand-made signs to the event…You guys were great!!
Dallas Skyline High School – Nick Dibbles, Anthony Favela, Marlene Lopez, Kailee Orozco, and Chef Instructor Adam Bazaldua (aka “Chef Baz”).
Richardson High School – Cierra Beazer, Roman Castaneda, Mitzy Oajaca, Shannon Payne, and Chef Instructor Kate Good.
Each of the teams were paired with a Legends Chef Coach, so the competition included an added edge of intra-Legends rivalry. Special thanks to these top-flight Legends culinary masters for sharing their expertise: Chef Rachid ElYamani, Chef Chris McCord, Chef Ubaldo Prado, and Chef Andrew Trollinger.
Although every dish from each school earned high marks, the team that ultimately triumphed was Dallas Skyline.
Here are some notes from the winning menu –
Appetizer: creamy mushroom toast with poached duck egg(that’s right, a poached duck egg!)
“For the appetizer, we did a cream of mushroom on top of garlic bread and that idea came from our instructor,” notes Skyline’s Marlene Lopez.
Entrée: Hand-rolled pasta with cheese mounted marinara sauce and pan-fried chicken breast
“For our entrée, it was our take on chicken parm on top of fresh pasta,” explains Skyline’s Nick Dibble. “We made the pasta at the start of the competition, and we made a red sauce.
The secret ingredient for the competition was dairy, so we added cream cheese, parmesan, mascarpone and spinach which we incorporated into the red sauce. We topped it with batter-fried chicken.”
Dessert – Crepe with berry medley and whipped cream, drizzled with raw honey
“We did a crepe with freshly-made whipped cream, which got us extra points for using more dairy,” says Skyline’s Anthony Favela. “It’s the first time I used an iSi canister. This was my first competition, but I wasn’t nervous. It was great to be here at The Star. It’s very elegant and I was very impressed. And my dad is a big fan of the Cowboys, so I’m getting lots of pictures for him.”
“Some of the dishes we prepared were from our school café, but we also had to include ingredients that were made available here tonight,” adds Skyline’s Kailee Orozco. “We tried to keep it simple because we had a short time, only an hour, to prepare three courses from scratch.”
Like any other art form, the whole of a culinary creation is more than the sum of their parts.
“I knew we had the key ingredient which is passion,” said Chef Baz. “My kids are extremely passionate about food. I told them to come and do what they love to do. I already know they can create delicious food. The biggest thing they had to worry about was time management. When it comes to cooking good food and incorporating the ingredients, these students have what it takes. When I saw the time ticking down and there were only 10 minutes left, I was so impressed to watch the team’s confidence and their composure. Watching how they handled themselves was very gratifying for me as an instructor.”
The panel of judges that had the hard (but enviable) job of scoring the meals included Chef O, Looney, Caliber Collision’s VP of Marketing Kandace Ladis, and Tonda Spencer of Spencer Dairy.
Tonda, her husband Jerry, and the Spencer family have operated Spencer Dairy in Sulphur Springs, Texas for 48 years. They proudly sponsored the event as part of Dairy Max, the local dairy council that supports farm families in Texas, New Mexico, Western Oklahoma and Southwest Kansas. The Spencers and other dairy families get up before dawn each day, 365 days a year, to milk their cows.
Dairy Max families know that milk is one of the most commonly requested but least donated items to food banks across the country. They also know that 1 in 6 people in the U.S., including 16 million kids, are affected by hunger. That’s why they support organizations like the North Texas Food Bank in it’s effort to eliminate food insecurity.
“We really appreciate Dairy Max and their support of tonight’s contest,” noted Chef Baz.
As for Looney, he’s already hungry for more.
“I can’t wait for next year’s competition,” said Looney. “These culinary teams were outstanding. Like I told them when a team was describing their entree, ‘You had me at fried!!!’”