By Candace Birkelbach

Killeen Daily Herald

The secret ingredient was chicken for the Iron Chef competition hosted by the hospitality department of Central Texas College on Wednesday.

When the secret was announced, CTC culinary students began rushing for the ingredient table to grab fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs to concoct their dishes.

The competition was the first of its kind at CTC, but the hospitality department plans to have it every summer. Six groups of two-member teams competed in the two-hour contest and were required to create an appetizer or salad, an entre with two side dishes and a dessert. The entre had to include chicken.

The competition counted as the final exam for the students in her saucier class, said Ramona Lezo, culinary arts instructor. Students were also required to use one of the sauces they were taught in the course in their dishes.

The competition was graded by four judges from the marketing, television and hospitality fields. Dishes were judged on presentation, flavor, originality, garnish and neatness.

"The competition is a way to give the students real-life experience and makes them work under pressure," said Richard Brownlee, professor of hospitality at CTC and a judge for the competition.

Lezo said most people do not realize CTC has a hospitality department that includes the culinary arts, hotel and travel.

"The Iron Chef competition is an opportunity to showcase our students and see what they can do," Lezo said. "Most of college is all bookwork, and we want to provide a fun learning environment."

Students can receive a culinary arts degree after two years or after accumulating 72 credits.

"I like being able to cook everything from scratch and learn what actually goes into making a cake," said Caprice Vizcaya, a first-year culinary student. "It's more fun than just baking a Betty Crocker cake."

Debbie Workmen, also a first-year student, said she had her recipes together before the competition. Her team made a chicken dish with an orange wine reduction, topped with white pepper and cilantro. For the side dishes, they made a stack of grilled, seasoned vegetables with garlic mashed potatoes. Their dessert was an almond toile with pastry cream filling.

The winners were awarded medals for their creations, and the first-place team members had their names engraved on a plaque.

Contact Candace Birkelbach at or call (254) 501-7553

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