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Franklin County students compete in annual cook-off

More than 20 students participated in this year’s Franklin County Junior and Senior High School Beef Cook-Off. Presented by the Franklin County Cattlemen’s Association and hosted by the Franklin County Extension, it took place Feb. 24 at Triple H Barn on Waterloo Road in Russellville.

“I think this is a wonderful way for participants to explore their culinary expertise, and this opens new doors to different careers – not only in the beef industry but also in Family and Consumer Sciences,” said Katernia Cole Coffey, Franklin County Extension agent.

The junior division included seventh through ninth grades, and the senior division was for 10th through 12th grades.

Judging criteria included appearance, flavour intensity, palatability, healthfulness and nutritional balance. Each contestant had to prepare his or her dish before arriving, as well as bring the recipe.

In the senior division, winners were KaLesha Sears in first place for her beef pot pie, Noelle Willingham in second place with beef Wellington turnovers and Emi Jimenez in third place with beef sopes.

In the junior division, winners were Libby Thorne in first place for beef tips and mashed potatoes, Bella Welch in second place for her ground beef taco dip and Memoree Parrish in third place for her lasagna.

Each first-place winner received $50. Each secondplace winner received $40. Each thirdplace winner received $30.

LEARNING ABOUT BEEF

As part of the event, Franklin County Cattlemen member Caleb Beason conducted a presentation titled Beef Industry at a Glance.

Beason explained the beef industry represents the largest segment of agriculture in the United States and is the third largest segment of Alabama agriculture, following poultry and forestry.

“I wanted the students to learn about cattle production and understand the pasturetoplate story, as well as to see the methods for beef preparation,” Beason said, adding he also wanted to promote “the value of cattle in both sustaining our environment and providing a safe protein source.

STUDENT INTEREST

“This event has been going on for a long time,” explained Russellville High School Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Cindy Coan. “I competed in this when I was in school in Russellville.

“My kids have been looking forward to this, and it’s something they get excited about every year,” she added. “I have one already talking about competing next year.”

Coan said she thinks her students love getting to use their food prep skills in competition. “There’s a lot of group work, and it provides a good opportunity for them to work together.”

Belgreen FACS teacher MiMi Wood agreed her students also get excited. “They worked really hard to get some authentic dishes prepared, and they’ve done things outside of their comfort zones.”

Wood said she’s “very proud” of the work they’ve put into the competition, adding she knows they’ve enjoyed it.

“We’ve used a lot of the beef the Franklin County Cattlemen donated to us in the dishes for the competition,” said Wood.

For RHS senior Ashlee Moon, the competition represented a good opportunity to meet students from other schools as well as to try new food. “I made Crock-Pot Birria tacos,” Moon said. “It was definitely a dish outside of my comfort zone. I’m more used to baking than cooking, but I enjoyed the challenge.”

For RHS senior Braxton Hicks, the contest was an opportunity to be involved in the community, give back and experience new things. “My dish is fried jalapeño burgers,” Hicks said. “I find comfort in preparing dishes, and Mrs. Coan inspired me to try new things and learn to cook more dishes.”

PRAISE FOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Franklin County Cattlemen President Michael Pounders said 24 students participated.

“I’m glad to see the turnout we had from the local students, as well as the variety of different recipes presented today,” he said. “We just love seeing that beef is being promoted in our school system.”

Franklin County Schools Superintendent Greg Hamilton said he appreciates the all the teachers and sponsors of the event. “This is a good opportunity for the kids to learn about what they might have previously taken for granted,” Hamilton said. “It lets them find out what it actually takes to get food to the table.”

Sponsors included CB&S Bank, the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, Community Spirit Bank and Triple H Barn.

Qualifying winning entries are invited to represent Franklin County in the State Beef Cook-off April 14.

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