Niles students in chili cook-off

Published 3:20 pm Friday, March 9, 2012

Bridgett Carpenter stirs the ground beef, while teammates Danielle Grill, left, and Quinn Brawley help prepare a chili and cornbread meal during Friday’s culinary competition at Lake Michigan College’s Napier Campus. (Daily Star photo/CRAIG HAUPERT)

BENTON HARBOR — The ground beef was starting to sizzle in the pan when Niles High School senior Danielle Grill began sprinkling on the creole seasoning. Beside her, Niles sophomore Oskar Olalde was busy slicing and chopping a green pepper that would soon be added to what students hoped would be award-winning chili.

“It’s a pretty easy recipe we got off the Internet, but we are adding a couple things to spice it up,” Grill said.

Grill and Olalde were two of four members on a Niles High School team competing in Lake Michigan College’s third annual High School Hospitality and Culinary Arts Student Summit and Chili Cook-off Friday at Napier campus.

The “Flaming Vikings”, which included junior Bridgett Carpenter and sophomore Quinn Brawley, didn’t take home first prize, but they did leave with an experience they’ll never forget.

Laura Vance, hospitality and food services instructor at Niles High, said the competition allows students to tap into their creative sides while building self-confidence.

“They are stepping outside of their comfort zone to try to achieve something they might not have realized they had the potential for,” Vance said.

More than 150 students from all over southwestern Michigan competed. Each team of four students was required to create from scratch chili and cornbread using only cold table food preparation.

Students could not use a sink, stove or refrigerator.

They were allowed two butane burners, an ice chest and two buckets filled with soap and water or sanitizer. Everything was done on a five-by-seven-foot table, so space was limited. They had about an hour and a half to finish.

“It’s more difficult that being in your home kitchen,” Olalde said.

It is the third time Niles High School students have competed at the event. Eight other Niles High School students came along to submit their portfolios into a portfolio competition.

The goal of the event was to show students the career opportunities available with a college education in the hospitality industry. Portfolios were critiqued based on how useful they’d be in a job search process.

Students also attended a roundtable discussion about food service and lodging careers conducted by industry leaders.