Recent Nicholls grad participates in cooking competition


Photo by: Misty McElroy

Nicholls culinary graduate Haleigh Hocut compete in the 2015 San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Regional Competition in Chiago last week.

Recent Nicholls graduate Haleigh Hocut has been pretty busy since graduating in fall 2014.

Since October, Hocut dedicated her time with weekly drives to Thibodaux to practice making a 10-plate meal.

Hocut, a native of Luling, Louisiana, competed in the 2015 San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Regional Competition in Chicago last week. The competition featured culinary students from selected leading culinary schools in the country. In a competition that five previous students have successfully won, Hocut was selected to represent Nicholls following a campus-wide contest amongst 12 other culinary majors.

Hocut was asked to select and create a dish from a selected pantry. The choice was between the three proteins, which included lake trout, duck and lamb. Hocut decided to create a duck plate. The goal was to create a creative dish that could be sold in a restaurant, while each contestant defends and explains their dish.

“The competition was only two days, so it was very fast paced. The day we arrive there was media training, and the next day we competed,” Hocut said.

Hocut had to prepare her dish and be finished within two hours, preparing 10 plates for 10 judges. Five of the judges were selected panel judges, and the other half consisted of kitchen judges. The dish Hocut made was Duck Madeira with cauliflower “couscous” and swiss chard.
Although placing short of first, the experience and knowledge are the main components she took away from the competition.

“It was a great experience, especially with the media. There were cameras literally everywhere and someone was always taking photos. I think I handled the experience very well,” Hocut said.

Leading up to the competition in Chicago, Hocut practiced in Gouaux Hall.

“She did very well talking to judges, and she was very comfortable with the media,” says Randy Cheramie, executive director of Nicholls’ Chef John Folse Culinary Institution.

Cheramie commends Hocut on her efforts and thinks competition is key to learning more about the craft.

“If you can get into a prestigious looking competition, or any kind of competition, putting yourself on the line is a great experience,” Cheramie said. “There’s no better way to learn than putting yourself in a competition. It is truly a great opportunity.”

Hocut plans to continue to pursue her cooking endeavors in the future. She is currently working and co-owns a food truck in the New Orleans’ Bywater area.

“I definitely gained much experience from competing,” Hocut said.