Culinary Arts students Lyndee Wells, Nick Branum and Shania Valentine recently lived out every aspiring chef’s dream when they participated in the recent Odyssey de Culinaire in Oklahoma City.
Paired with top chefs from across the state, the trio of second-year Meridian students had an opportunity to awaken the taste buds of the 240-plus guests with delectable dishes inspired from coast to coast. The event, an annual fundraising event sponsored by the Oklahoma Restaurant Association that is now in its 13th year, showcased Coastal Cuisine through its five-course meal and wines from across the United States.
Wells created a gulf coast seafood tart with a piquant sauce and Andouille marmalade, with Mark Vannasdall, executive chef of nebu and Aravalli in the Devon Tower.
Branum, a senior from Perkins-Tryon High School, and Bill Leib, Oklahoma State University – Institute of Technology School of Culinary Arts instructor, collaborated on a Mississippi gulf duck tamale with Cajun duck confit and fermented jalapeno, tomato jam, pickled watermelon rind, house grown micro greens and crispy skin as accents.
Mulhall-Orlando senior Valentine was able to stretch her Odyssey experience into two days. Paired with Leo Novak, executive chef and director of food and beverage at the Ambassador Hotel in Midtown, Valentine spent the previous day doing much of the prep work for the fava bean succotash that accompanied a pan seared Alaskan halibut with basil aioli.
Stepping into the kitchen at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City was a little overwhelming, according to Wells.
“This certainly was a different experience for me,” the Perry senior said while preparing the shrimp and crawfish base for her dish. “My family loves to cook, and I’ve been active at Meridian in the classroom and with student contests. I’ve only been here a few hours and I have already learned so many new things from Mark and the other chefs.”
Whether it’s learning new techniques or experimenting with new ingredients, students selected for this event have an opportunity to see where their career training can lead them, according to Sam Bracken, one of Odyssey’s coordinating chefs and executive chef of the Canebrake, an eco-friendly resort located outside of Tulsa.
“I’ve been a part of this event for the last seven years and I can tell you that there is no other event like this is across the country,” he said, describing how the experience helps young chefs. “They can do school. They can do a mentorship or whatever. But with this event they essentially do all of that in one night.”
Odyssey de Culinaire takes place each summer at a Tulsa and Oklahoma City location. Proceeds from the fundraising event support students and culinary programs using the ProStart career-to-school curriculum created by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Meridian Technology Center relies on this program to prepare students for a successful career in the culinary arts and hospitality industry. To learn more about careers in this area that are available at Meridian visit meridiantech.edu/culinaryartsprogram.