Salsa competition heats up tastebuds at St. Philip’s College

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Prizes include scholarships and culinary supplies.

By Wally Perez

Steele High School seniors Anthony Smith and Nick Fraser won the title of Best Salsa and $500 scholarships at the seventh annual Best Tasting Salsa competition Oct. 7 at St. Philip’s College.

They were among seniors from 12 high schools who competed at the event sponsored by the college’s culinary arts program in the Heritage Room of the campus center.

“It feels great to actually win,” Fraser said. “We didn’t expect much out of our salsa to be honest. We just came to participate.”

Smith and Fraser created a green roasted tomatillo and avocado salsa that guests were seen praising.

“If we hadn’t done well, I probably wouldn’t have participated in future competitions,” Smith said. “We’re both competitive guys, since we’ve both played sports in the past. So now that we’ve tasted victory, we want to see how far we can go.”

They both hope that their performance will put Steele’s culinary program on the map. They plan to attend St. Philip’s to study culinary arts and business.

Second place went to South San High School for mango, cantaloupe and cucumber salsa. Third place went to Taft High School for tomatillo salsa.

The competition, influenced by Hispanic Heritage Month, attracted the most participants of any year since it began with only eight high schools competing in 2008.

Teams of two to five culinary students represented each participating high school. Some schools brought additional students to support the competitors.

The teams were asked to create a unique salsa that would be flavorful.

The prizes for second and third places were scholarships to St. Philip’s for $250 and $125.

Salsas were judged on originality, taste, texture, table decorations and uniform.

Judges included Glenn Rierson, Ace Mart representative; Diana Barrios-Trevino, owner of Los Barrios restaurant’ and Cris Goloby, culinary arts chef instructor at the college.

Judges first tasted the salsas and voted. Then members of the public were allowed to sample and vote for a “People’s Choice” winner.

The award for the People’s Choice went to Southside High School for charred Monterrey salsa.

They were gifted bags filled with culinary utensils and T-shirts donated by Ace Mart restaurant supply, La Gloria restaurant, B&B Smokehouse and Original Mexican Restaurant.

As attendees sampled the salsas, the sounds of crunching followed by “mmm …” were not uncommon.

Some guests were overheard praising some salsas while criticizing others for being too spicy or not spicy enough.

Navarro High School senior Dylan Chittenden created a habanero salsa that was inspired by a recipe his teacher had recommended.

“We had close to a month to work on the salsa, and over that time we’ve tweaked it and tried to perfect it,” Chittenden said. “We’ve had some people come back for seconds, so it’s always a good feeling to see people enjoying your work.”

Each high school plated chips and salsa in unique ways such as in sombreros, or in fine glassware, and table decorations showed a Hispanic influence including small piñatas, figurines and flowers.

Frances Rocha, culinary services coordinator at the college, was happy to see the variety of salsas and participation at the competition.

“One of the things we try to focus on when we do this competition is to keep the Hispanic culture alive and ignite an interest in cooking for the students,” Rocha said. “We’ve had a past contestants come to St. Philip’s after they graduate and go on to teach at other private institutes like the Culinary Institute located at the Pearl.”



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