Kelly Tops the Competition

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The Classic frequently features articles on local food options, but for this month, the publication decided it was time to look at some of the talented cooks in our community. To find a student cook worthy of a profile, the multimedia class hosted a “Top Chef” style competition in early January, featuring desserts only, and the winner (determined by a panel of teacher judges) was freshman Kelly Casottana.

Kelly’s journey to the top began before she could even peer over the edge of the kitchen table. She spent much of her early childhood days in the kitchen helping her father chop vegetables and put together flavorful concoctions. By the time she was six, she began preparing her own meals and crafting new dishes. Cooking became more of a lifestyle than a hobby, complete with baking marathons that lasted hours into the night.

While baking “desserts are fun and (usually) easy to make,” she prefers cooking since “[she has] more freedom to add [her] own twists on dishes, baking requiring more precision.” Her love for experimenting carried on to the baking world, inspiring her to add personal touches and make original recipes. Her entry for  Top Chef, Caramel Filled Chocolate Chip Brownies, took the traditional brownie recipe and revived it. The brownie, dusted with light powdered sugar, was deemed perfect for the Top Chef stage.    

The event was held in the cafeteria, set up much like the television version in Top Chef. Each chef was given an opportunity to introduce their dish along with its inspiration and what it contained. Afterwards the judges were given time to taste and assess the dessert, then brought the chef back for additional questioning.

One of the judges, classical language  teacher Dr. Marianthe Colakis said, “I was glad to see you got such nice layers. That the caramel didn’t melt into all the chocolate.” She also gave Kelly some baking suggestions, advising her to “use a little sea salt on top to cut the sweetness.”

Upon reflecting on the experience Kelly said, “I was super nervous throughout the whole competition because I was the youngest one there and everybody’s desserts looked so good.” As the event progressed, Kelly began to doubt what she created and never imagined making it to the final three.  “The judges were saying how sweet it was and I thought that it was over for me then.”

She didn’t have to be worried, however. “When I won, I was so happy and my hands were shaking. It was great to know that all of that time and effort paid off,” she said.

To see the full results, stay tuned to The Classic’s Web TV channel on YouTube, which will publish a video episode on the event later this semester.