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Culinary Arts

Brodie Curtis, an Orange Coast College “hot food” team member, puts the finishing touches on a scallop dish during a practice session at the campus kitchen. The team will be competing in the American Culinary Federation’s national finals in Orlando, Fla., in what’s considered the Super Bowl of college cooking. (Don Kelsen / LAT)
Co-coach Bill Barber grimaces while watching some of his five-student team prepare dishes under deadline. In June, Orange Coast College won the American Culinary Federation’s Western Regional Competition in Idaho and the pressure’s on to come out on top at the national championships in Florida. (Mark Boster / LAT)
Curtis caramelizes scallops, a delicate maneuver involving high heat. For the finals, the team aims to combine haute cuisine with homey comfort food. (Don Kelsen / LAT)
Marissa Gerlach rushes her food from the stove to the prep table at the campus kitchen in Costa Mesa. As the team captain getting ready to graduate this year, she’s been preparing for the national championships for a year, along with working long shifts at an upscale Laguna Beach resort. (Mark Boster / LAT)
In a practice session, team member and designated salad man Conrad Malaya creates a citrus-drenched watermelon dish encircled by crisp sesame seed lavash bread. (Don Kelsen / LAT)
Coach Jeremy Peters carries a finished course to the dining room. His Orange Coast team is preparing for the national championships by cranking out a gourmet four-course meal. (Mark Boster / LAT)
On a morning in July, the four teams competing in the national finals are arranged side by side in improvised kitchens at the Orlando Marriott convention hall, with the Orange Coast group in the foreground. They have exactly four hours to create 24 portions of a four-course meal. (Phelan M. Ebenhack / For The Times)
At one point before the finals, team alternate Chad Urata, shown with captain Marissa Gerlach, had to run to the store to buy a new $60 deep fryer after their machine’s cord went missing. After using the cord, they planned to return the machine. (Mark Boster / LAT)
Judges Alex Darulski, left, and Kevin Stone watch Gerlach filet a fish during the American Culinary Federation’s finals. “If you lose one pin-bone out of that fish and a judge catches it, you’re knocked down 2 to 4 points,” she says. After quickly recovering from a few mishaps, the Orange Coast team went on to win second place. (Phelan M. Ebenhack / For The Times)