Amid salsa dancing, pirate-fighting and chili tasting, culinary arts students from nine area high schools became pioneers for the chili cook-off at Glendale Community College.
"It's been quite a learning experience for all of us," said Sarah Harms, culinary arts advisor for Crescenta Valley High School.
"The lessons the students have learned from this have been amazing. When you don't know what to expect and learn how to deal with last-minute change, it really prepares you for the real world."
Harms continued, "Doing this definitely gave them a taste of reality of what the industry is like. You have to be ready for the unexpected and tend to all the different factors that involve putting up a successful set up."
The eight judges gave points to six areas of excellence — aroma, consistency, appearance, flavor, aftertaste and showmanship. Students too, got to judge their counterparts.
"Oh, number two is really good," Stephanie Abajian of La Cañada High School said of the John Burroughs High School team.
"It must be the chicken and onion. I don't know what it is — I can't point it out exactly but it tastes really good," Abajian said.
La Cañada High students expressed the general feeling of enjoyment for the fact that they got to taste different chili and dress up like a pirate.
After trying out everyone else's chili and judging the chili from other schools, students tried out their chili again.
"I like mine, not the fact that it has bacon in it, but I like the general taste of it," said Abajian.
"After tasting everyone else's chili and trying out my own, I actually like mine more," said Karen Statter advisor for LCHS. "Some of the chili, I feel like all you are tasting is spice. I go for flavor, I don't go for spice."
After the judging, the Crescenta Valley High School group walked off with top prize, the Golden Ladle award.
"Coming up with the winning taste was a collaborative effort," Harms said.
"It made discerning taste buds come together and come up with a recipe that, according to all of our taste buds, was the most pleasing," she said.
Organizers hope the cook-off will be a yearly culinary competition; it was made possible with a $112,500 grant from the California Department of Education for technical career education.
The Pathway Program Model Demonstration Project featured student teams and instructors from La Cañada High School, Arcadia High School, Blair High School, Burbank High School, Crescenta Valley High School, Daily High School, Glendale High School, Hoover High School and John Burroughs High School.