Hunter’s chicken is fairly simple, but requires the students to demonstrate a variety of techniques, from good knife skills to how to deglaze a pan, said Robert Allen, executive chef for the Beverly Hills Hotel and a judge of the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program’s cooking competition. The students “frenched,” or removed, the wing meat from the chicken, then pan-roasted it, while preparing the sauteed potatoes and a sauce made from rich, concentrated veal stock, tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs. “If the sauce is too thin, it will be watery on the plate. If it’s too thick, it will be syrupy and gummy,” Allen said. “We strive for perfection on the plate. To create that, it’s a lot of little things done well. “Perfection in the kitchen is very elusive.” Judge Sherry Yard, an executive pastry chef for Spago, said the dessert crepes shouldn’t be “wimpy,” and should have a little color to them, “because color equals flavor.” The pastry cream filling, she said, “should be unctuous” – buttery – “not fatty or dense but fluffy, and the chocolate sauce should be velvety.” But Yard said she also was watching how the students worked, and how they recovered from a mistake. “I can teach anyone how to bake, but I can’t teach someone how to be passionate about what they do,” Yard said. Once both plates were presented for the judges, the students were able to relax – and wash their dishes – relieved to be done. Ramirez said she found it overwhelming to work under such scrutiny, but was thrilled to have the chance to compete. Her dream is to win a scholarship to Johnson & Wales University, and eventually become a pastry chef. “I think you can express yourself more – there’s more artistry in pastry,” Ramirez said. De Santiago’s father would prefer his son become a doctor, but de Santiago would rather debone a chicken than remove a gallbladder. His goal is to someday open an upscale restaurant in the eastern part of the San Fernando Valley, which currently has mostly mom-and-pop establishments. “This is where my passion is,” de Santiago said. “I have to prove myself every day.” [email protected] (818) 713-3663160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Clad in a white chef’s coat and toque, 18-year-old Louis Anthony de Santiago of San Fernando minced fresh herbs Friday with precision and speed. Around him, 25 other high school students swirled batter in crepe pans, “frenched” a chicken wing and carefully peeled potatoes into a distinctive barrel shape. Professional chefs, clipboards in hand, watched their every move. At stake: $375,000 in scholarships to prestigious culinary schools, whose winners will be announced Monday. But if de Santiago was nervous, the Sylmar High School student didn’t show it. His mind was on the ingredients at hand. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinals“This is fresh tarragon – it smells like licorice,” de Santiago said. “It adds an earthy flavor and aroma to the sauce.” During the competition held at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, the culinary students were charged with preparing – from memory – Poulet Chasseur avec Pommes de Terre Chateau (Hunter’s Chicken with Turned, Sauteed Potatoes) and Crepes Sucrees with Creme Patissier and Sauce au Chocolate (Dessert Crepes with Pastry Cream and Chocolate Sauce) in under two hours. Although they all prepared the same recipes, the students were allowed to be as creative as they wished with their final presentations. De Santiago, for instance, rolled his crepes into pillars and stood each vertically on a strawberry slice, then drew an elaborate vine design on the plate with chocolate sauce. Areli Ramirez, 18, of Van Nuys High rolled her crepes into cones, then hollowed out a strawberry and filled it with chocolate sauce before dotting it with pastry cream.