Aspiring culinary students get a taste of how the pros compete

Hadas Kuznits
October 04, 2019 - 6:15 am
Great Philly Cook Off

Ben Fileccia/Great Philly Cook Off

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The best way for young, aspiring chefs to break into the culinary biz is to break bread with the top chefs in the Philly food scene. And for the second year in a row, these Philly teens get to do a lot more than just mingle with the pros.

During the second annual Great Philly Cook Off, School District of Philadelphia students who are on a culinary track are paired with some of Philadelphia's best chefs. Together, they participate in a "Chopped"-inspired cooking competition.

The event, to be held at Drexel University's Academic Bistro on Oct. 10, is a fundraiser for the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association (PRLA) Educational Foundation Scholarship Fund.

"Prizes are awarded, and bragging rights are on the line," added Ben Fileccia, the Philly director of operations and strategy for PRLA.

For the students, Fileccia said this is often their first time participating in a culinary competition and presenting their food in front of judges.

"The chefs are allowed to bring one secret ingredient from their restaurant," Fileccia explained. "We usually drop a secret ingredient on them when they arrive, and then they have about 20 minutes to plan what they're going to be serving.  They have about an hour, hour-and-a-half to prep and cook it, and then they have to present it to our judges that night."

Great Philly Cook Off
Ben Fileccia/Great Philly Cook Off

Great Philly Cook Off
Ben Fileccia/Great Philly Cook Off

While the students are really the stars of this competition, some high-profile names cooking in this year's event will definitely stir the pot.

"Aaron Gottesman of Oyster House; Yehuda Sichel from Abe Fisher; Barbie Marshall, who was a finalist on 'Hell's Kitchen'; Lucio Palazzo, who is now with Soujourn Philly Restaurant Group; Sylva Senat, a 'Top Chef' competitor; and Frederick Upshaw from Star Fusion Restaurant," said Fileccia.

The bulk of the funds raised come from sponsorships. General admission tickets are $25 each, which include hors d'oeuvres, food, and spirits tastings.

For more on what goes on behind the scenes at the Great Philly Cook Off, listen to the KYW Newsradio original podcast What's Cooking on the RADIO.COM app.