Pruden students bake with the best

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2005

Last Thursday afternoon, Brandon Plumeau reached into an oven at the kitchen of the Pruden Center for Industry and Technology and took out a large chocolate sponge cake.

Just over 24 hours later, the delicious delicacy would give the Smithfield High School student a huge aid in his college career.

Plumeau and several other students in the Center’s culinary program headed to the Founder’s Inn in Virginia Beach last Friday for the International Food Service Executive Association’s culinary class. For the first time, instructor Faith Amroune got to see the competition from the other side of the table.

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&uot;Being on the teaching end of it was totally different than on the competing side,&uot; said Amroune, who competed during her years at Lakeland. &uot;Our main goal was to have the students understand what was expected of them, and what they’d have to do in a competition.&uot;

Along with Plumeau, fellow students Crystal Gibson and Michael Campbell got started on their entries the afternoon before. Gibson, a student at Nansemond River, fixed up an assortment of Swiss chocolate truffles, coconut cream fudge and creamy caramel.

&uot;I like baking more than cooking,&uot; said Gibson, who hopes to take her culinary skills to Johnson and Wales after graduation. &uot;Baking is with pastries and bread; cooking is more meat and restaurant-type meals.&uot;

That was Campbell’s focus; the Smithfield graduate cooked up a platter of pecan-encrusted pork tenderloin with mushroom sauce, vegetables and red wine.

&uot;I’d never made it before,&uot; said Campbell, who has won several cooking competitions during his years at Pruden. &uot;It was a good learning experience to get chefs to judge my food.&uot;

Rather than being judged against each other, contestants were graded on presentation, originality and creativity. Gibson’s goodies won third place in the candy division.

&uot;I was a little surprised, because the rest of them were good,&uot; she said. &uot;I love cooking; it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.&uot;

Not only did Plumeau’s dessert take first in the decorated cake class, his dish was voted one of the top two culinary creations in the entire show, which won him a $3,000 scholarship to the college of his choice (undetermined as of yet).

&uot;I was really excited,&uot; said Amroune. &uot;For most of the past year, our kitchen has been torn apart and replaced with better equipment. Our program is growing a lot.&uot;