This weekend students from Schenectady County Community College's Culinary Arts program will compete head-to-head in a competition not of culinary skill, but of the mind.
Four SCCC students will head to the American Culinary Federation's Northeast Region H. Galand Culinary Knowledge Bowl Competition, held Feb.7 to 9 in Boston.
They need to understand all of the definitions ranging anywhere from nutrition, sanitation, culinary basics, baking basics, as well as classical French cooking, said Christopher Allen Tanner, chef instructor at SCCC and head coach of the team.
Participants had to memorize facts from five culinary textbooks including Escoffier's "Le Guide Culinaire," "Culinary Fundamentals," "Baking Fundamentals," and a book on management, which is produced by the National Restaurant Association.
The road to the competition has been taxing on the participants.
"They practice three days a week, three to five hours a day," said Tanner. "They go through a grueling process of getting quizzed by me on the different topics."
And that's only when they're all together. Participants are also expected to practice on their own. The four team members, who were selected from about a dozen applicants, all work full time and also attend school full time.
Many have little time to eat the food they're studying so much about.
"I work about 55 hours a week at Creo, and I'm the head pastry chef here so I'm in charge of two other students who go to Schenectady County Community College as well," said Jose Arteche III, team captain. "Then on top of that I go to school full time, but generally I stick to four classes but that's still four days a week that I physically drive to school."
Arteche said that one of the challenges of preparing for the competition has been learning French terms.
"Trying to remember French words when you haven't really taken a French class is tough," said Arteche. "We're trying to guess in our minds what the actual words sound like. All of the questions will be read verbally so we have to really listen carefully to all of the questions."