LAKE CITY, S.C. – Fourteen Lake City Early College High School culinary arts students spent the last two weeks learning from celebrity chef La Tasha McCutchen during her 2019 culinary camp.

McCutchen is a Lake City native and the season 13 winner of “Hell’s Kitchen.” She currently works as a private chef in Charlotte, North Carolina, and travels up and down the East Coast catering, doing events and working with students.

This is the second year of the Chef Tasha Mac Culinary Camp. And while McCutchen teaches students how to cook, she said she also teaches them about food safety. The first part of the student’s day at the camp typically started with ServSafe, a food and beverage safety training and certificate program.

“That’s a big part of it, making sure they’re knowledgeable about the safety of food because it’s one thing if it tastes good and it’s another thing if it kills you,” McCutchen said.

Culinary students learned how to make sweet potato biscuits, sugar cookies, plus American, Italian and Spanish dishes, among other items.

The camp ended Friday evening with a culinary showdown. The 14 participants were separated into teams that each prepared a dish for dozens of guests to enjoy, including judges who represented several local restaurants.

“It’s about teamwork, cleanliness and things of that nature, service,” McCutchen said.

Judges determined which team prepared the best dish, and guests could vote for a fan favorite.

The overall winner of the competition was Team Italy. The team prepared a shrimp tortellini dish for the guests and judges.

In addition to sampling the food prepared by the students, local eateries also provided foods for people to sample.

Culinary students praised McCutchen for providing the opportunity for them to receive hands-on training. All participants now have the potential to receive ServSafe certification, which is a five-year certification for the food industry that shows the students are knowledgeable and have food safety training, McCutchen said.

The school district covered the cost of the camp for the students who were accepted, plus the cost for the certification test.

McCutchen said her overall goal for students who attend her camp is for them to understand food safety, the importance of the kitchen environment and the importance of respecting each other in the kitchen.

“Being a chef is about more than putting on a jacket. It’s actually a lot more than just cooking,” McCutchen said. “It’s about being able to manage not only your time, but your team and the people around you. So I want them to get the full professional experience from being in this camp, not just how we cook at home.”

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