Culinary student to participate in prestigious cooking competition


Photo by: Submitted Photo

Johnene Breaux, senior culinary art major from New Orleans poses for a picture before competing in the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Regional Competition.

One culinary arts student has been selected to represent Nicholls’ Chef John Folse Culinary Institute in the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Regional Competition being held in Chicago, Illinois in January 2016.

Johnene Breaux, a senior and native of New Orleans, was selected to attend the competition amongst 10 other culinary students. In the selection process, students had two hours to present their dish. Four separate dishes were prepared by each cook, in which plates were presented to the judges in 10-minute intervals. Breaux won over the judges after successfully preparing and presenting andouille-crusted scallops with boursin cheese grits, sautéed asparagus, lemon beurre blanc and a scallop hush puppy.

“This was a competition I wanted to try for last year but didn’t have the time, plus my skill level wasn’t where it is now,” Breaux said. “This is my last year of school, so I thought it was best to give it a try.”

This is the seventh year that Nicholls culinary has been involved in the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Regional Competition. The San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition hosts over 40 of the leading culinary schools across the U.S., in a spirited cooking competition that spotlights the best and brightest. Culinary students will compete before the food media, distinguished guests and renowned chefs. Nicholls’ students won the first five times they competed in regional competition. Chef Randy Cheramie, executive director and instructor of Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, will mentor Breaux as she begins to practice making a 10-plate meal.

“We offered a simple pantry to the students, but we also insisted the students to, for the overall parameters of the competition, make a dish with some kind of Louisiana flare,” Cheramie said. “Mainly because of where we are from and because our cuisine here, Cajun Creole cuisine, is known as probably one of the two greatest art forms to come out of the new world.”

The competition features eight different student cooks from eight different schools. According to Cheramie, being able to be comfortable and handle the media attention is one thing that comes with participating in this prestigious competition.

“Part of the scoring is how each cook presents themselves,” Cheramie said.

Being a successful chef in today’s world means being a part of media and knowing how to handle an interview. Breaux and Cheramie will begin practicing next week. The two will conduct sessions starting off once a week and eventually progressing to multiple practice sessions during the week.
“We practice so when we get there, there’s not much thinking, just doing,” Cheramie said. “I promise she’s not going to have anything to hang her head about, she’s going to be proud of her dish, and I’m going to be proud of her because we will have done our work and will be ready.”

Breaux will practice with a shrimp and also a scallop dish. Once comfortable and familiar with both, she will decide on which plate she feels better suits her presentation.

A graduate of John Ehret High School in New Orleans, Breaux always knew that she wanted to be in the kitchen. Breaux’s favorite dish to make is pasta with shrimp. Learning how to stay calm under pressure for any competition is one aspect she believes she will learn and benefit from during the competition.

“I plan on competing in other competitions, so this will be great experience learning how to stay calm, stay positive and stay on top of everything,” Breaux said. “I’m representing Nicholls State University and if I win, that’s big. I just want to stay calm.”

Regional winners move on to the final, where they will compete for the coveted San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef title and a one-year paid apprenticeship with a celebrity chef from the panel. Getting to the national competition in California keeps the motivation flowing for Breaux.

“I’m very excited for the experience and that I won an opportunity to go to Chicago,” Breaux said. “Everyone’s excited for me and I’m proud of myself, but I want to make it to Napa Valley, California and win the big prize. That’s my goal.”