At the conclusion of separate six-week after-school courses in culinary arts and video production, cooking and broadcast students at Beverly Vista Middle School joined forces to produce the Junior Chef Cooking Competition, judged by two chefs from local hotels. As the teams of competitors opened mystery boxes with sweet and savory items, camera operators captured every pinch, roll, and chop for the KBEV 6 stream.
Room 361 at Beverly Hills High School (BHHS) was packed with middle school students on Nov. 17, long after the high schoolers had left. Some were wearing black aprons, others vests with “KBEV” printed on the back, but all had the same eagerness to put on a show.
“A lot of these career tech education programs, KBEV, culinary, there’s so many moving parts to these industries,” said Chef Rick Leece, who taught the cooking course.
In the weeks prior to the cook-off, Leece’s students were able to speak with industry professionals. They learned mechanics and techniques in the introductory course, as well as resume development and career research for those particularly interested in a culinary future.
Leece told the Courier that for some of the students, their “creativity might exceed their skill level,” but the goal was to develop a passion rather than take them out of school and put them into kitchens full time. He said the shared experience of an opt-in course created opportunities for bonding as well.
“I’ve got students in high school and other seniors that met during these workshops in middle school; they built these long-term friendships,” Leece said. “There’s just so much to offer from this kind of collective experience.”
Meanwhile, KBEV Supervising Producer Ricky Lee was helping to facilitate the broadcast. The students holding microphones and directing shots had plenty of practice, as they had been taught skills such as scriptwriting, camera operations, and interviewing.
According to Lee, it’s “very common” for former KBEV students to pursue media careers at the collegiate level.
A program alum himself from five years ago, he told the Courier that he aimed to reach both middle schoolers and community audiences.
BHHS senior Chloe Truong was the show’s host. Truong, a culinary student her freshman year, has been involved in a catering and mentorship role ever since. She joked that the hosting duties fell to her because Leece “doesn’t know how to talk to a camera.”
Truong told the Courier that she wants to work in the food industry at some point, but her final goal is to become a teacher. In the meantime, she has been giving demonstrations to the people in her position a few years later. “You learn a lot over time. Freshman year, I failed culinary,” Truong said. “It’s all a learning experience.”
The competition was judged by Thomas Henzi from The Beverly Hilton and Ricardo Aguilar from the Peninsula Beverly Hills. Henzi and Aguilar rated the dishes based on criteria such as taste, texture, and presentation, making note of how each group incorporated the mystery ingredients.
Group 3 ended up impressing the judges the most. As the chefs praised the winning team’s breaded chicken, they had words of encouragement for everyone taking part.
“We’re very proud of your efforts,” Henzi said. “Continue to work hard, because you’re going to make your way into an amazing career.”