Dallas College News Update

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Contact: Cherie Yurco; cmyurco@dcccd.edu

For immediate release — Oct. 29, 2021

(DALLAS) — Next week, talented students and alumni from the Dallas College Culinary, Pastry and Hospitality program will have the opportunity to test their skills alongside famous chefs for a share of the World Food Championships’ (WFC) $300,000 purse. More than 1,200 cooks will participate in 10 different categories and a full lineup of fun and mouthwatering events.

“Cooking competition is an excellent opportunity for culinary professionals at any level to test themselves and hone their craft. It is exciting to see their passion on display in the competition arena!” said Steve DeShazo, senior director, Dallas College Culinary, Pastry and Hospitality.

Dallas College is the official 2021 higher education partner of WFC. Described as a food sport event, the competition will take place Nov. 5-7 at Fair Park’s Centennial Hall. Tickets can be purchased to watch the competition and sample the food.

“Our partnership with Dallas College is one of the many ways we hope to discover new and rising culinary stars in the Texas region,” said Mike McCloud, president of WFC. “Giving them a chance to compete at the highest levels is not only exciting but very rewarding for culinary students.”

Dallas College students Preston Nguyen and Temika McCaskill as well as alumnus Alex Ortiz will compete in the “Chef” category after having earned a Golden Ticket by preparing a winning signature dish in a last-chance qualifying round held Oct. 10. In the first round, on Saturday, Nov. 6, the competitors in the Chef category will create two meals: a structured build “Wellington” and a signature dish.

Preston Nguyen’s parents, who work in the culinary field, are his assistants for the World Food Championships competition. The family has enjoyed practicing together.

Cooking Practice Provides Family Bonding Experience​​​

Nguyen, 18, among the youngest competitors, is in his first semester at Dallas College. “Ever since I can remember, I’ve been cooking with my family,” said Nguyen. “My mom and dad actually met at El Centro culinary school [now Dallas College].”

“I’ve been passionate about this since my senior year in high school, when I started working in a restaurant. I wanted to take it to the next level, so culinary school was the next step for me,” he said.

Nguyen, who hopes to one day open his own steak restaurant, hones his skills at Prince Lebanese Grill in Arlington. “I fill in wherever they need me — flat grill, charcoal grill, expo or build station,” he said. “I also do catering.”

Nguyen’s signature dish in the qualifier was chargrilled mint lambchops. “It was heavily inspired by the restaurant I work at,” he said. He also tested some of the new skills he learned at school. “We’ve been learning a lot about mother sauces and bases and also practiced chargrilling our veggies.”

His parents, Peter and Emma Nguyen, are his assistants for this competition. Preston says that practicing has been a bonding experience for the family. “I’m super happy to have this opportunity to cook alongside my mom and dad. We do mock trials where we set a timer and pretend it’s an actual competition.”

Temika McCaskill moved to Dallas from New Orleans, and her signature dish was a twist on a New Orleans favorite, shrimp and grits.

New Orleans Native Returns to Her Passion​​​

Temika McCaskill moved to Dallas from New Orleans a couple years ago. Starting school at Dallas College Culinary, Pastry and Hospitality Center was a return to what she loves. “I finally realized that cooking is what makes me and keeps me happy,“ she said. She is in the Fast-Track program at Dallas College and plans to graduate next summer.

“I’ve pretty much been around food my whole life,” she said. McCaskill’s dad is a former executive chef, and her mom does catering. Temika currently works at Roots Southern Table under owner and chef Tiffany Derry. McCaskill hopes to eventually open a bar and bistro in Dallas.

Her signature dish was seared duck breast on top of creamy polenta with a red wine reduction and topped with grapefruit-zested caramelized apples, and crispy duck skin, which was served with a Cajun spring roll crisper. “One of my favorite dishes in New Orleans is shrimp and grits, so I put a little twist to it,” she said.

McCaskill said that focus is sometimes challenging during a competition, especially when they start to call out “10 minutes left!” “I try to block everyone out and focus on the stove,” she said. “Chef Glick is my food prep instructor, and he’s really good with timekeeping and time management. That has helped me tremendously.”

Chef Alex Ortiz has overcome many obstacles with hard work, supporting himself during college and keeping his taqueria going despite the pandemic.

Entrepreneur Survives and Thrives

Chef Alex Ortiz, owner of Knockout Tacos in Irving, started cooking with his mother when he was 12 years old. His family is in the restaurant industry in Mexico, and he came to the United States at age 15.

He worked extremely hard to support himself while at culinary school. “I was already on my own when I was in college,” he said. “I was working full time and part time.”

Though he already had strong cooking skills and experience, culinary training from Dallas College was important in other areas. “I learned all the codes and how to write recipes. I definitely got a lot of knowledge from El Centro [now Dallas College],” he said.

Ortiz opened his taqueria in September 2019. “Six months before COVID,” he said. “I struggled; we had to close for three months.” But now things are looking up for the entrepreneur.

His winning signature dish was a spicy tofu salad that included spinach, arugula, grapefruit segments, jicama and baby bell peppers and was topped with a grapefruit vinaigrette. It was a winning recipe from his very first food competition while enrolled in Dallas College in 2016.

His professor had invited the class to participate in a competition where they would be up against students from two prestigious schools: Art Institute of Dallas and Cordon Bleu. At first, none of the students accepted the challenge. “They were scared,” said Ortiz. “That motivated me to compete, so I raised my hand. I was super happy when our school won first and second place.”

“It’s not only culinary students who are engaged with this large media and food sport event. Dallas College has connected the WFC with students from across many interdisciplinary programs, especially from the School of Business, Hospitality and Global Trade and the School of Creative Arts, Entertainment and Design,” said DeShazo.

In addition to 25 paid positions for culinary and event management students, Dallas College photography and video production students will work directly with the professionals producing the event, plus hundreds of student volunteers will gain experience in other areas.

“This partnership with Dallas College is truly a win-win that we’re excited to be a part of,” commented McCloud. “Dallas College students will be gaining real-life entertainment and culinary experience. We’re really looking forward to seeing what these students will bring to the table.”

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