Real Maine visited Capital Area Technical Center (CATC) in Augusta on Nov. 29 for a local foods cooking challenge for culinary arts students. CATC is one of several culinary arts programs that hosted similar cooking challenges this fall as part of the University of Maine’s Building Agriculture Literacy Through an Immersive Culinary Experience project.
Chef Rob Dumas, food science innovation coordinator for the School of Food and Agriculture at the University of Maine, was on hand to help CATC Chefs Heidi Parent and Patrick Austin educate students about using local ingredients. Kathy Savoie, University of Maine extension educator, highlighted common food allergies and diet restrictions before the cooking challenge.
It’s been a joy to get to expose young people to Maine foods and see students put their creative spin on it.Chef Rob Dumas
Chef Dumas brought a pantry full of Maine ingredients for students to use in their dishes, including produce, dairy, fish, meat, grains, vegetables, and herbs. He gave an overview of what the pantry had to offer (which included many Real Maine member products). The students were then divided into groups to formulate dishes – with the added twist of drawing a dietary restriction for their dish such as vegan, gluten-free, pescetarian, and lacto-ovo vegetarian. Students then had 50 minutes to cook and plate dishes for tasting.
The University of Maine’s Building Agriculture Literacy Through an Immersive Culinary Experience project activities are funded by the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) for three years. In partnership with Maine Agriculture in the Classroom, the program takes a multi-pronged approach to increasing career and technical education culinary arts instructors’ understanding, engagement, and passion for the agricultural landscape and food system in Maine. The scope of grant activities include:
- visits to culinary arts classrooms to provide lessons about seasonality, dietary preferences, and allergens, and facilitate local foods cooking challenges.
- a multi-day, all-expenses-paid bus tour of Maine’s food system for culinary arts instructors, featuring cooking and tasting activities, along with culinary challenges with Maine ingredients
- a local foods cooking competition held at the University of Maine for culinary arts students from throughout the state in the spring
- opportunities to apply for grant funding for culinary arts programs to use to support connections to the Maine food system
Dumas and Savoie will visit 31 culinary arts classes at 16 career and technical education programs throughout Maine this fall. They said they have had many worthwhile takeaways from their interactions with culinary arts classes.
“It’s been a joy to get to expose young people to Maine foods and see students put their creative spin on it,” Dumas said.
“We have a bright future in getting local foods in local food establishments,” Savoie said.
Some of the dishes created by CATC students were a root vegetable hash with sunny-side-up egg and potatoes and apples; salmon salad with sweet potato croutons; salmon with blueberry glaze with farro; and fried tofu with a mushroom and kale sauté and home fries with candy stripe beets.
Kamryn Dube, a senior in the CATC culinary arts program, was thankful for the exposure to local foods.
“It is a nice introduction to Maine ingredients,” she said.