Meridian Culinary Arts Student Works with Top Chef for Industry Fundraiser
Culinary Arts student Jazlyn Hancock lived out every aspiring chef’s dream as a participant in the Odyssey de Culinaire, a fundraising event sponsored by the Oklahoma Restaurant Association.
The event pairs five top chefs from across the state with students pursuing careers in culinary arts. This year’s theme, “Travel Destinations,” featured a five-course meal and accompanying wines from across the globe.
Hancock worked alongside Chef Joshua Valentine, Executive Chef at Milo Restaurant at the Ellison in Oklahoma City. Together they prepared the final course of the night which took guests to Bayonne, France. La Bete Noir, “The Chocolate Beast,” consisted of a flourless chocolate cake with marshmallow fluff and a pecan bacon praline.
“I knew I wanted to be a chef when I was about twelve years old,” Hancock said. “Ever since then, I have been finding ways to gain experience, and the Odyssey was the perfect opportunity to get into a professional kitchen. All of my experience has been in more laid-back kitchens so being in a professional kitchen gives me an idea of what path I want to take for my future.”
While working with Chef Valentine, Hancock learned how to take on a stressful situation without becoming overwhelmed. She is thankful for the familial environment the Oklahoma Restaurant Association provided at the Odyssey. She recalls Chef Valentine telling her, “The industry is a community and nobody wants you to fail. Everybody has your back.”
“My favorite part of the experience was plating up the food,” Hancock said. “It was fast-paced, and we all had to work together to get the plates ready to serve. The comradery of the whole process was really cool.”
During the Odyssey, Hancock got a peek into what event catering is like. With the dessert course being the last of the night, she found herself helping other chefs prepare food and clean up while waiting for her time to shine. “I did what my instructors taught me to do; I kept busy and helped where I could.”
The event was led by Chef Mark Vannasdall from Traditions Spirits and Chef Bill Leib from Francis Tuttle Technology Center. Other chefs featured at the event included Chef Chris Barton from the Skirven Hilton Hotel, Kevin Lee from The Social Order, Ryan Westbrook from Traditions Spirits and Chickasaw Nation Casinos, and Jeff Chanchaleune from Goro Ramen.
For the past year, the Guthrie student has been under the instruction of Chef Dustin Charter at Meridian. Hancock said he has been “an amazing instructor,” and she felt confident in her skills heading into the Odyssey experience.
Hancock enrolled in Meridian Technology Center’s Culinary Arts program because of her desire to learn new skills in the kitchen; however, she credits her grandmother for her love of cooking.
“My grandma and I would watch cooking shows together and then try to make what the chefs made,” Hancock recalled. “We would do chop challenges and make new meals all the time.”
Hancock will attend Tech this fall to complete her second year in the Culinary Arts program. Upon graduation, she would like to attend culinary school and has Le Cordon Bleu in London as her top pick. In the future, she hopes to own a restaurant that caters to an individual’s dietary restrictions, a place where anyone can dine. In the meantime, she can be found mastering her pastry baking at Hoboken Coffee Roasters in Guthrie.
Meridian Technology Center has been a driver of economic development since 1975. With a mission to educate, enrich lives and secure economic futures, Meridian offers full-time career training programs, short courses, workforce and economic development assistance and entrepreneurial support to residents from the Agra, Carney, Glencoe, Guthrie, Morrison, Mulhall-Orlando, Pawnee, Perkins-Tryon, Perry and Stillwater school districts. Meridian is one of 29 schools within Oklahoma’s CareerTech system.
*Photos courtesy of Tracy Reece with Smile Time Photo Booth.
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