• McEachern High School culinary team creates a beautiful combination of Panko crusted chicken served with sweet mashed potatoes. The food is plated to resemble the colors and tastes of autumn in the throwdown-style competition on Oct. 17 at The Taste of Acworth. (photo by Jedidah Taylor)
  • Judges Yolanda Chatman and Qui Lockett taste the dishes created by the McEachern Culinary team as they compete for the first time at The Taste of Acworth’s teen competition. The judges were randomly selected from the American Chief Federation’s (ACF) Atlanta division board and are executive chiefs.
    (photo by Jedidah Taylor)

  • At The Taste of Acworth on Oct. 17, juniors Jasmin Reese, Erin Edwards and Cameron Reeves prepare a golden apple parfait simply garnished with McEachern blue and gold chocolate. Originally, the team planned on completing this dish with a cinnamon whip cream but lacked the time and ingredients and had to improvise at the last moment.
    (photo by Jedidah Taylor)
  • Juniors Erin Edwards, Cameron Reeves and Jasmine Reese share a confident moment of accomplishment as they hear their focus and commitment have guided them through the intense competition at The Taste of Acworth on Oct. 17.
    (photo by Jedidah Taylor)
  • Participating in The Taste of Acworth with McEachern’s Culinary Team on Oct. 17, junior Erin Edwards peels the skin of sweet potato to prepare for the team’s side dish of sweet mashed potatoes. Later the team garnished the potatoes with cilantro and a caramelized sauce.
    (photo by Jedidah Taylor)
  • Relieved yet focused, junior Jasmine Reese dries her hands during clean up because sanitation is one of three categories the competition is judged on. With pure drive and commitment, McEachern’s culinary team beats the reigning winners, Kell High School, in the Taste of Acworth. (photo by Jedidah Taylor)
  • At the Taste of Acworth on Oct. 17, Juniors Cameron Reeves and Erin Edwards work vigorously within the 30 minute prep session granted before the hour of cooking time. McEachern did not finish within the hour and went over three minutes in order to plate the presentations.
    (photo by Jedidah Taylor)
  • Culinary Arts teacher Katherine Daniel, keeps time for her team while balancing her role as a coach and observer. With four after school practices, Daniel is confident in her team as they prepare three dishes for Taste of Acworth teen competition on Oct. 17.
    (photo by Jedidah Taylor)
  • During the last few seconds of The Taste of Acworth’s teen culinary competition on Oct. 17, junior Cameron Reeves plates his golden delicious parfait, using overtime, he cleans the plates for a strong presentation which is one of the judging categories. (photo by Jedidah Taylor)
  • McEachern’s Culinary Team’s panko crusted chicken served as the main dish leading the team to victory over last year’s winners, Kell High School. In order to qualify for a throwdown-style competition, students prepared an entree, a side dish and dessert.
    (photo by Jedidah Taylor)
  • McEachern High School culinary team creates a beautiful combination of Panko crusted chicken served with sweet mashed potatoes. The food is plated to resemble the colors and tastes of autumn in the throwdown-style competition on Oct. 17 at The Taste of Acworth. (photo by Jedidah Taylor)
  • Judges Yolanda Chatman and Qui Lockett taste the dishes created by the McEachern Culinary team as they compete for the first time at The Taste of Acworth’s teen competition. The judges were randomly selected from the American Chief Federation’s (ACF) Atlanta division board and are executive chiefs.
    (photo by Jedidah Taylor)

by Jedidah Taylor, Managing Editor

The scent of smoked wood and the voice of a child choir float through the air of Acworth on Oct. 17.

First-time McEachern competitors juniors Cameron Reeves, Erin Edwards, and Jasmine Reese conquered Taste of Acworth as they snatched from Kell High School the first-place title in the High School Challenge.

The winning trio sculpted panko-crusted chicken accompanied by mashed sweet potatoes with a savory yet sweet dessert of a Golden Delicious apple parfait topped with blue and gold chocolate.

“We were confident with our dishes, but at the same time we only had four practices,” Reese said. “We couldn’t get the panko to stick to the chicken until the last minute, so that was where our nerves hit us.”

Sponsored by the city of Acworth and Acworth Business Association, Taste of Acworth is a yearly festival hosted in the Historic District. Taste of Acworth aids local schools and charities in the community; the free festival included more than a 150 restaurants and businesses which served guest free samples and plates that cost less than $4. Festivities included live entertainment, bounce houses and bungee jumps, but the High School Team Cooking Challenge captivated the crowd’s attention.

“Our goal is to show kids that years in universities aren’t for everyone, and if you have passion and patience, there are successful alternatives and people who will help along the way,” Challenge Coordinator Laura Heart said.

In previous years, the challenge was an individual competition with a $3,000 prize; however, in order to instill the importance of teamwork, organizers changed the competition into a team challenge, and the winning school takes home $1,000 for their culinary program and the student chefs split $1,000.

“We plan to purchase cutting boards, knife kits and other pieces of small equipment,” culinary teacher and coach Katherine Daniel said. “The remainder of the money will go toward the program to purchase groceries for the completion of labs.”

Teams are judged on sanitation, taste, and presentation, and the judges seek competitors with an aptitude to reach beyond their culinary abilities at challenging levels.

“Nerves and arrogance are distractions. and you can’t allow that power to divert you from your goal, which is showcasing your creativity,” judge and Executive Chef Yolanda Chatman said.

For the student chefs, food serves as an expressive outlet. Like an artist uses a brush and paint to create masterpieces, chefs use food to create plates of art. The Taste of Acworth High School Team Challenge offers a unique opportunity for students to showcase their talents using sophisticated ingredients while experienced chefs offer professional critiques.

“Food is life,” Reeves said. “Cooking isn’t for everyone, you have to have passion, and if you don’t, it shows in your dish.”

Reese’s, Reeves’ and Edwards’ success is a result of practice and persistence, and they share the belief that without their coach, they would not have made it through, much less won, the challenge.

“The biggest thing Ms. Daniel taught us was to keep pushing,” Edwards said. “You never start out as the best, so there is always room to grow.”