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Top students win Franklin County Junior Cattlemen Beef Cook-off

By Maria Camp

For the FCT

After several years, the annual Franklin County Junior Cattlemen Beef Cook-off has resumed. The event took place March 1 at the A.W. Todd Center in Russellville as a collaboration between the Franklin County Cattlemen and the Franklin County Extension System.

Fourteen students from Phil Campbell, Belgreen and Red Bay competed. First- through third-place winners were chosen for the Junior Division, grades seven through nine, and the Senior Division, grades 10-12.

Junior Division winners were:

  • First place: Harley Carter, Belgreen
  • Second place: Seth Sykes, Belgreen
  • Third place: Kyra Rollins, Phil Campbell

Senior Division winners were:

  • First place: Anna Beth Gunderman, Phil Campbell
  • Second place: Carly Rice, Phil Campbell
  • Third place: Julie Layman Belgreen

CB&S Bank provided cash prizes to the winners: $30 for first place, $20 for second place and $10 for third place. Community Spirt Bank provided mugs for the winners.

“Students must win at the county level in order to participate at the state competition,” said Caleb Beason, president of the Franklin County Cattlemen. “It has been a few years since Franklin County participated. We have been eager to kick this off again.”

Dishes were evaluated based on flavor intensity, healthfulness and nutritive balance, palatability and appearance. Beason said students did not need to own cattle in order to participate; beef was provided by the Franklin County Cattlemen.

“The cook-off gives the kids a good opportunity to use the skills they’ve learned in class,” said Amy Gunderman, Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Phil Campbell High School. “It also provides a good bonding opportunity, as well as the chance to learn about selecting the groceries they need for the dishes they have chosen to prepare.”

Debbie Beason, Sherion Vall and Bonnie Hargett served as judges. Vall said all the dishes were presented well, and Hargett said each dish was very good. She noted the event encouraged an emphasis on low carb and low salt selections.

Beason said students have the opportunity, through their studies at school, to earn ServSafe certification. This creates eligibility for a pay raise when working with food and is necessary in order to be a manager or assistant manager in a restaurant. Janet Lovelady, 4-H Regional Extension Agent, said the cook-off was a great chance for students to practice those skills. “They are learning about safe food preparation in class,” she said, “and this is an excellent opportunity for them to put that learning into practice.”

Whether students were winners or not, many said they enjoyed the experience of participating. Cameron Burks, a sophomore at Red Bay High School, said he enjoyed learning how to cook a new dish. Jon Shotts, a Red Bay High School senior, said he had fun working with old friends and making new ones.

“I’m glad the students all had the opportunity to use Franklin County beef and to compete with other area schools,” said Scott Wiginton, Franklin County Career Tech director.

The winners of each division will compete in the Alabama State Beef Cook-off, which will be held April 6 in Montgomery.

“We would like to extend our appreciation to Janet Lovelady, the county 4H agent, and Katernia Cole-Coffey, the county Extension coordinator and all the Family and Consumer Science teachers in the county for helping to make this event possible,” said Beason. “We would also like to thank the sponsors and the judges who volunteered their time for this event.”