Student chefs in white coats and pastry hats scurried around a Johnson & Wales University kitchen, besting a clock and each other as they attempted to whip up an award-winning seafood dish.
The four culinary arts students were competing for a coveted spot to host a cooking demonstration at the Deering Seafood Festival next month. In the spirit of the festival’s 10th anniversary, students were were limited to 10 ingredients, which they had selected beforehand.
With only 40 minutes on the clock to cook, the chefs dashed back and forth, skittering between their sizzling skillets and the chop, chop, chop of their cutting boards .
Each chef had to prepare individual plates for the three judges: Vanessa Hassele, a spokesperson for Whole Foods Market; Gian Flores, a chef instructor at the school; and Laura Lagomasino, the development director of the Deering Estate Foundation.
The judges evaluated each of the dishes for originality, plating, flavor, sanitation and creativity.
After totaling the points and deliberating in private, the judges determined that sophomore Liam Gove’s diver scallop appetizer was the winning dish.
“This dish won because of the variety of flavors and texture,” Flores said. “It also had a great presentation.”
Gove, who is from Beverly, Mass., cooked his diver scallops in five spice powder, egg, butter and garlic. He pickled cantaloupe pearls and placed them around the scallops, along with cashew crisps. For color, Gove sprinkled microgreens around the plate and drizzled a sunchoke puree over the scallops.
“The differences in flavor were tremendous,” said Lagomasino. “The scallops were sweet and then the cantaloupes were tangy.”
For Gove, 31, the decision to make the scallop appetizer was all about the time constraints — and his New England roots.
“Personally, I love scallops and given the time constraint, I knew to be able to make a gourmet high-end dish that it would have to be an appetizer,” he said.
Gove went over the allotted time by three minutes and was worried about how it would impact his chances of winning.
“It was a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be between the limited ingredients and the timing,” he said. “It goes by fast.”
He had made similar dishes before, but with more ingredients than the required 10.
While organizers have opened up the festival to a student chef for three years now, this is the first year they had a cooking challenge where they imposed an ingredient limit. At the festival, they say Gove will be able to add ingredients to his recipe.
Gove will cook for more than 100 guests at the March 30 festival alongside chefs from top local restaurants. The seafood festival, which will be held at the Deering Estate at Cutler in Palmetto Bay, will have a lineup that will feature Jouvens Jean from Pierre’s at Morada Bay, Kareem Anguin from the Oceanaire Seafood Room, Samir Canaan from Truluck’s Seafood Steak and Crab House, Damian Gilchrist from Ocean Reef Club and chef Sean Bernal.
“The festival is a really fun environment and I know Liam will do great,” Lagomasino said. “We look forward to having him.”