State politicians battle Tech culinary students in good-natured food fight

Timed culinary challenge a chance to show off regional food offerings

  • Chef Rep. Stan Rosenberg prepares his chicken dish at the Franklin County Technical School on Friday. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Franklin County Technical School students Joey Barcomb and Alix Burnette cook alongside Representatives Susannah Whipps Lee and Paul Mark on Friday during a friendly cooking competition. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Representatives Susannah Whipps Lee and Paul Mark on Friday during a friendly cooking competition. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Representatives Steve Kulik and Stan Rosenberg cook at the Franklin County Technical School with Susannah Whipps Lee and Paul Mark in the background. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Rep Stan Rosenberg shares ingrediants with studnet Joey Barcomb on Friday at the FCTS. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • At left, Franklin County Technical School juniors Kassidy Flores and Shayla Demers work on food prep in the kitchen on Friday afternoon. At right, Rep. Steve Kulik and Sen. Stan Rosenberg cook while Rep. Susannah Whipps Lee and Rep. Paul Mark work in the background. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and state Representative Stephen Kulik serve up their entries at Franklin County Technical School Friday afternoon. Recorder Staff/Tom Relihan

  • The winning dessert from Franklin County Technical School’s student-versus-legislator cooking competition. Recorder Staff/Tom Relihan

  • State Reps. Paul Mark and Susannah Whipps Lee strategize before firing up the stove during Franklin County Technical School’s legislators-versus-student cook-off Friday afternoon. Recorder Staff/Tom Relihan

Recorder Staff
Published: 5/20/2016 10:46:11 PM

TURNERS FALLS — “Lemons! I need some lemons!” shouted state Rep. Stephen Kulik, pacing the culinary arts program kitchen at Franklin County Technical School Friday afternoon. “Did somebody already take all the lemons?!”

“If you can’t find lemons, look for some anise or anisette,” responded state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, without looking up as he carefully slid a chef’s knife into the side of a large potato.

As Kulik made his way back toward his station, where he was mixing batter to make pizzelle — a type of Italian waffle cookie — state Rep. Susannah Whipps Lee palmed an apple corer into the bottom of her own potato, then worked a knife around its circumference. The result: a potato shaped like a mushroom; the perfect complement to her shiitake mushroom-topped sauteed chicken entree.

“That’s good, Paul,” Whipps Lee said, motioning for Rep. Paul Mark to pass her the bowl of local cheese he’d just finished grating.

This particular legislative delegation had come to the school Friday afternoon to step off of Beacon Hill and into the kitchen for a few hours, where they faced off against two teams of Franklin Tech culinary arts students — seniors Joey Barcomb and Alix Burnette and juniors Kassidy Flores and Shayla Demers — in a cooking competition modeled after the popular Food Network show “Chopped.”

Before scrambling for piles of herbs, eggs, asparagus and other ingredients from the kitchen’s pantry — most locally sourced from Franklin County farms — Chef Ben Pike revealed the secret ingredients that had to be used in the entree and dessert dishes: a whole fresh chicken for the former, and local apples from Pine Hill Orchards for the latter.

It didn’t take the teams long to figure out what they’d make and get to work, and the finished products ran the gamut from Asian-inspired teriyaki on the student side to a hearty New England broiled chicken with roasted vegetables on the legislative end.

“What’s our oven situation?” Rosenberg asked Pike, as he threw chicken, potatoes, raisins and carrots into a baking pan.

“You’ve got three ovens, and they’re on,” he said, as he passed by with a plastic cup full of peeled garlic. “They’re hot.”

“I’m so excited for this, it’s just like the real cooking TV show,” said Tech School Superintendent Rick Martin as he and Greenfield Community College President Bob Pura, two of the day’s judges, surveyed the action.

Nearby, Tech School culinary senior Barcomb coated chicken pieces in a thick, brown teriyaki sauce.

“It’s really cool, unreal,” Barcomb said of the opportunity to face off against some of the state’s leadership. “I didn’t know the chef (Pike) was organizing this.” Barcomb said he was particularly supportive of the competition’s focus on local farm-to-table food, which he noted is a hallmark of the region’s tourism industry.

Back at Kulik’s station, Tech School junior Ry-Ann Decker helped him perfect the heat level to turn out perfect golden pizzelle.

“It’s a bit tough,” he noted. “I’ve got to work on my technique a bit.”

Mark, who said he cooks a fair amount at home but had never competed before, noted he picked a strong partner in Whipps Lee — she’s a 1990 graduate of Johnson and Wales University’s culinary arts program, and it showed as she juggled sauteing chicken and crafting an apple crisp dessert.

“45 minutes!” barked Pike as the contestants scrambled to slice and dice veggies and cheese. “45!”

Pike said he and Whipps Lee had come up with the idea for the cooking contest to promote awareness of the Tech School’s programs. He said he’s done similar competitions among the students and against other technical schools before, but never with legislators involved.

“It’s a great opportunity, not only for the school but for the region,” Pike said. “In New England, we have so much to offer, and a lot of people don’t know it’s here.”

When the smell of cooked garlic had faded from the air and the flames on gas stoves flicked out of existence, the judges — Martin, Pura, Myron Becker and Paul Abbey — took on the burden of viewing, tasting and scoring each dish.

The victor, by a mere point and a half? The junior home team, Flores and Demers, who served up oregano-vegetable chicken with a cranberry-apple rice pilaf and a lime-apple meringue tart for dessert.

Whipps Lee and Mark’s dish came in second, while Barcomb and Burnette’s teriyaki took third. Kulik and Rosenberg’s chicken bake came in last.

Despite that, Kulik said he was happy to participate and support the school’s students, and he even learned a few new techniques for his home kitchen.

“They’re learning to be professionals in there, and as a legislator I want to support that and have some fun, too,” he said.

Rosenberg noted that the legislator’s venture into the culinary arts allowed them to connect with the students. “In there, we’re all the same,” he said.

You can reach Tom Relihan at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264
On Twitter, @RecorderTom


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