Their hands moved in quick motion and their minds were racing. Yet these Copperas Cove High School students never picked up a pencil and paper for their final exam.

Students enrolled in Culinary Arts were required to function as a team and cook a dish of their choosing at one of the six stations during an Iron Chef competition May 29.

Students did not know the “secret ingredient” required in their recipes until the competition started.

With seven different competitions, secret ingredients included peaches, pineapple, pretzels, oatmeal, cream cheese, coconut and puff pastry.

In the competition that required coconut, the dishes ranged from entrees to desserts.

For Kitchen 5, students believed the winning dish was their Thai Chicken Stir-fry with Coconut Rice.

“We usually do desserts in this class, so we wanted to do something outside the box,” Senior Brianna Johnson said. “I think our dish has more flavors going on … spices and sugars … lots of taste and our colors mixed well. It looks good, too.”

Judges got a similar dish from another team that prepared chicken and coconut milk in white rice.

“It looks pretty and tastes amazing,” said team member Victoria Parker.

For Deja Freeman, the competition was all about strategy.

“Our dish is more of the islands. We decided to go with a Caribbean dish,” Freeman said. “With coconut, you think of a dessert, but not really a main dish.”

chocolate coconut cake

In Kitchen 4, chocolate coconut cake was the dish Ashley Castillo, Cailyn Kope, Malyk Thomas and Michael Hayes prepared for top marks from the judges.

“In my house, all I do is cook and I like to learn different recipes,” Castillo said.

While Hayes was not as experienced in the kitchen as Castillo, he said he was just as creative.

Junior Kayla Lopez was the only female on her team and she had her hands full with the men in the kitchen.

“(The biggest challenge) is getting them to listen to me. We all work together though, so it’s not that hard,” Lopez said. “They started out pretty messy. But they got better.”

The judges agreed the boys could definitely cook, giving their coconut cream cheesecake high marks.

“The texture of the cake is very good and still warm in the middle,” Judge Pam Beall said. “It’s really light. I do wish they would’ve toasted the coconut on top because then it would’ve had a different texture and taste.”

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