PERRYSBURG - Alyssa Basham, a graduating senior at Penta Career Center, has had a stellar career in the school's culinary arts program.
|Penta culinary student Alyssa Basham. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
So much so that she has garnered nearly $10,000 in scholarships and is headed to the most prestigious culinary college in the country.
Basham will be attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., where she plans to study baking and pastry arts.
The scenic college on the Hudson River, in the same neighborhood as President Franklin D. Roosevelt's estate, impressed her from the start.
"I went to go visit CIA and it was beautiful." Like a true chef, she's speaking of "the kitchens and the ovens," and only as an afterthought adds "the atmosphere around it," which she finds undeniably scenic.
The Perrysburg resident is eager to share in today's Cook's Corner one of the recipes she made earlier this year for a high-level cooking competition called SkillsUSA.
She's spelling out the correct way to make risotto, a currently trendy side dish to serve with meat and vegetables for a well rounded, restaurant-grade meal.
"It was part of a set menu where we had to create different elements into it, like different flavors."
Bashore placed second in the state at Skills USA. Her team prepared a full-meal entree consisting of pan-seared chicken atop a mound of the risotto, along with carrots and zucchini in a mushroom sauce.
In her recipe, she uses two chef terms, like "sweating" the onion and garlic, which she said simply means searing them in pan on medium-high heat with a light layer of vegetable oil, just until the onion is clear.
Next, the cook "toasts" the rice. That means you "coat the rice with the onions and garlic a little bit" as it heats up together. "It won't really change the appearance of the rice" but is the first step in infusing the rice with a whole lot of flavor.
"Then you add the chicken stock" to the rice. The stock is added in three separate increments. "That's so the stock gets absorbed evenly."
Basham has been interested in food for a long time.
"When I was younger I always used to like cooking with my mom and making things like spaghetti with her.
"As I got older," maybe 12 or 13 years old, "I liked the Food Network."
"After that, I decided to go to Penta for culinary." One of her favorite assignments junior year was the gingerbread house project. "I really enjoyed that, and it led me to decide to go into baking and pastries" as her area of specialization.
It all paid off as the accolades started to roll in this semester. Earlier this month, Basham received the 2013 National Technical Honor Society Scholarship. This $1,000 award is granted annually by Family, Career and Community Leaders of America Inc. to a student member based on academic excellence, outstanding leadership, and significant volunteer experience.
Basham served as the Culinary Team Captain for her school's ProStart Invitational team in February and received the 2013 Ohio ProStart Top Culinary Student Award.
The students competed against 24 culinary teams from across Ohio in knife skills, food production, recipe creation, menu cost preparation, and menu display.
She has also volunteered at local FCCLA events and scholarship dinners.
"Alyssa is a very dedicated and hard-working student," noted her Penta instructor, Chef Janea Makowski. "She goes beyond what is expected of her each day."
The Culinary Institute of America is awarding Basham two separate scholarships - the $5,000 Culinary Institute Presidential Award as well as the $1,000 Culinary Institute Alumni Award.
Chef Makowski, herself a CIA alumna, wrote Basham a letter of recommendation for the latter award.
In addition, the 18-year-old earned a $1,000 SAT/ACT Achievement Award, and $1,500 Gordon Food Service scholarship from the Maumee-based food company.
For the past year Basham has had a part-time job with an area catering company, Preferred Catering.
"I've helped out with a wedding reception and with little home parties. I did some graduation parties last June, and also a fire department party in Genoa."
As if that weren't enough, Basham is a one-woman entrepreneur.
"I like making pumpkin rolls. I sell them every Christmas and Thanksgiving." She made 70 of them this past holiday season alone.
Basham had to make the rolls in her family's home kitchen, of course. "We only have one oven, that will only hold two sheet pans at a time, so it took awhile."
It wasn't hard to find customers for her tasty pastries, however.
"My mom (Carol Deem) is a teacher. I sell to her fellow teachers, and I sell to my teachers at Penta. My stepdad is a principal" with his own coworkers, and "family friends help get the word out."
Basham will head to New York for the start of CIA classes on July 30, and is enrolled in a four-year bachelor's program.
Her ultimate goal, she said, is to own her own bakery and cafe, so she can serve both sweet and savory items.
"Then in the back I could do wedding and other cake baking."
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cups Chicken Stock
- Parmesan cheese, to taste
- 1 tsp. chopped thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
Sweat the onion and garlic (in vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat) until translucent. Add salt and pepper.
Add rice to pan and toast the rice for 3 minutes, stirring so it does not burn.
Add 1 cup of chicken stock and cook to reduce.
Add another 1 cup of stock and reduce.
Add final cup and reduce until cooked. Finish with butter, cheese and thyme.