The youth were part of a new educational track during 4-H University on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, June 22-25, called the Next 4-H Food Star.
“Food is such an important part of Louisiana’s culture and economy,” said Dwight Landreneau, LSU AgCenter associate vice chancellor. “This program allows 4-H’ers an opportunity to explore career possibilities in the food industry. They will learn some of the inside secrets for success.”
Quincy Cheek, family and consumer sciences agent and a chef for six years, and Mandy Armentor, extension agent in Vermilion Parish, coordinated the track, which was part of Clover College during 4-H U. Clover College is a noncompetitive 4-H U event and included 10 tracks all together.
The students selected for this track have excelled in cooking in their respective parishes, Cheek said. The youth cleaned and peeled the shrimp and made a grocery list on Wednesday and prepared their dishes for judging on Thursday. While the items cooked, the students organized presentations, which included health benefits of shrimp and knowledge of the industry.
Cheek and Armentor taught the youth cleanliness and safety. Armentor said hands and wrists must be washed and dried properly, hair must be pulled back, nails must be clipped short, and no polish or jewelry must be worn in the kitchen.
While on a tour of the Louisiana Technical College Culinary Program, Chef Michael Travasos, a certified culinary educator, said cooking “parlays into doing math and being cost-efficient.” Adjusting sizes of recipes so as not to be wasteful is important, he said.
One of the 4-H teams participating in the track created LSU Shrimp Creole, arranging the shrimp in the shape of an L, S and U on the plate. “Got shrimp?” began Gay Lin Trahan of Cameron Parish as she made her presentation on shrimp production and gross farm value.
Dishes created by the youth included shrimp with a Greek, Indian and Cajun flair. One group’s, Pasta de Gulf, smelled like Louisiana, said Bob Glim, manager of TJM Restaurant Management and a judge.
The team making bisque marinated their shrimp overnight in Sprite. “It plumps them up and gives them a sweeter taste to me,” said Alex Talberg of Grant Parish, who has made the dish at least 40 times and won many 4-H contests. He added bread croutons cut into diamonds around the bowl.
In the team’s presentation, Talberg said, “Be sure to buy Louisiana, if you can. Or buy U.S.A.”
The youth will gather again at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans on Aug. 8 to demonstrate their dishes before famous chefs and a national 4-H representative for competition.
The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board is a sponsor of the Next 4-H Food Star track, Landreneau said.