What’s Cooking: Student Chefs Practice, Plate Favorite Dishes

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In the professional culinary world, presentation is everything. Making food look appealing is second only to making it taste delicious.

By Sabina Feinberg, Culinary Instructor

This spring, LLA Culinary Arts students used plating techniques to enhance the presentation of dishes that they perfected in our kitchen. They adapted recipes from internet searches and family tradition, sourced rare ingredients, and practiced cooking and plating each dish until it looked and tasted fantastic.

By having students research different recipes, they learned that there is a big world of eating and cooking outside of what they are used to. They chose something they wanted to cook, which added a personal element to the entire process. Students worked carefully to plate the food so that it looked as appealing as it tasted. They worked to arrange all the elements so that each flavorful component would show, and LLA’s digital media instructor helped photograph each dish to highlight the chef’s offering. To finish, we created portraits of the student chefs to pair with the images of their culinary class work.

Below we present each dish, and a brief description in the students’ own words of why they created it. Please try these recipes at home!


Student Chefs present their dishes


Spam Musubi by Alfa Afakasi


I decided to make musubi in culinary class because I always crave it at home but never could make it. Sometimes I go to Hawaiian Drive Thru just to get a couple of musubi and its pretty far from where I live.

One of my favorite parts of making this dish was decorating it, but the best part was when I tasted it. It tasted better than Hawaiian Drive Thru! What I found challenging is rolling the spam and rice with the seaweed. I’ve learned the best cooking is not your mom’s cooking, it’s mine. If I could serve it to anyone, I would serve it to my mom because she said I can’t cook better than her.


2 cups uncooked short-grain white rice

2 cups water

6 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup oyster sauce

1/2 cup white sugar

1 (12 ounce) container fully cooked luncheon meat (e.g. Spam)

5 sheets sushi nori (dry seaweed)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil


Soak uncooked rice for 4 hours; drain and rinse.

In a saucepan bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in rice vinegar, and set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, stir together soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved. Slice luncheon meat lengthwise into 10 slices, or to desired thickness, and marinate in sauce for 5 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Cook slices for 2 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Cut nori sheets in half and lay on a flat work surface. Place a rice press in the center of the sheet, and press rice tightly inside. Top with a slice of luncheon meat, and remove press. Wrap nori around rice mold, sealing edges with a small amount of water. (Rice may also be formed by hand in the shape of the meat slices, 1 inch thick.) Musubi may be served warm or chilled.


The “Big B” (Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich) by Luis Perez


I chose this dish because I am a humongous fan of bacon and I love sandwiches. What I enjoyed about making this dish is that I got to make the BLT whatever way that I wanted to make it, and I got to eat it after. I found toasting the bread a little challenging because we didn’t have a toaster so I had to toast it on the stove for about 5 min. If I could serve this BLT to anyone in the world it would be Sabina because she is awesome!


4 slices of bacon

2 slices of country white bread

1 tomato, sliced

1 leave of iceberg lettuce

1 tablespoon of mayo


Cook bacon until crispy, then drain on paper towels.
Toast 2 slices of bread.
Spread 1 tablespoon of mayo on 1 side of the two slices of breads.
Put 4 slices of bacon evenly on your two pieces of bread.
Add the leaf of iceberg lettuce on top of your bacon.
Add the slices of tomatoes (as many as you want) on top of your lettuce then put final bread on top.


Thai Coconut Soup by Estrella Dembicer


I chose to make this dish because I have great memories enjoying this soup with my grandpa. I enjoyed practicing the dish because I got a chance to learn about unique foods and ingredients from Thai culture.

What I found challenging was getting all the less-common ingredients together – for example I couldn’t get Thai chili paste so I substituted it with regular hot pepper flakes. I learned that this soup was easier to make than I thought it would be. If I could serve this soup to anyone I wanted, it would be to my grandpa because I know he would love it, and it would remind him of the good times we had enjoying this soup together.


1/2 can (14 oz.) coconut milk

7oz (14 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken broth

3 quarter-size slices galanga root

1/2 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut in 1-in. pieces

1 piece boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-in. chunks

⅓ cup sliced mushrooms

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam or nam pla)

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup fresh cilantro


In a medium saucepan, combine coconut milk, broth, ginger, and lemongrass and bring to boil over high heat. Add chicken, mushrooms, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and chili paste. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is firm and opaque, 5 to 10 minutes. Discard lemongrass. Garnish servings with basil and cilantro.


Grilled Cheese with Bacon and Tomato by Chazorae Bell


I chose to make a grilled cheese sandwich as a joke at first, because it seemed so simple and plain. I found a recipe that looked great because of it’s different ingredients, and I learned that a perfect grilled cheese can be complex to make. I enjoyed every part of learning how to make this sandwich. It was really fun and easy thanks to Sabina.

I found making the bacon the hardest part because I have never fried bacon before. I learned never to pour water on hot grease! I’m happy because I learned how to make the most delicious grilled cheese I’ve ever had. If I could serve it to anyone, I would serve it to Sabina because although she did try it she would only try a tiny piece.


4 slices bacon

1 1/2 oz grated gruyère

1 1/2 oz grated fontina

1 tablespoons finely grated parmigiano-reggiano

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)

4 1/2-inch-thick slices Italian bread

1 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 large cloves garlic, halved and peeled for rubbing


Cook the bacon in a heavy-bottomed skillet until browned and crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off the grease from the pan and wipe clean.

Combine the cheeses and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Lay 4 slices of the bread on your work surface, and distribute half of the cheese evenly among the bread. Top the cheese with 2 slices of bacon and then 2 or 3 slices of tomatoes (enough to cover the cheese and bacon). Evenly distribute the remaining cheese among the 4 sandwiches. Lightly butter one side of the remaining four slices of bread, and put them on top of the sandwiches, butter side up.

Heat your heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Place the sandwiches butter side down in the pan and cook on the first side until the bread is golden brown and toasted. Meanwhile, butter the top slice of bread on each sandwich. Flip the sandwiches using a spatula and continue to cook on the other side until the bread is golden brown. You can use the spatula to compress the sandwich as it cooks on the second side. Remove the sandwiches from the pan and immediately rub both sides with the cut side of a garlic clove. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.  Makes 2 sandwiches


South African Yellow Rice Jazmana Yarnway


My mother is from Liberia, Africa so I chose this dish because of her. I have had this dish many times before I made it here at school. I like this dish’s color, and I like how it tastes. This dish is colorful and it has many flavors that you can taste in it. It is also an easy dish to make.

This dish wasn’t too challenging because you just need to get all of the ingredients and put it in a pot and cook it. While cooking the South African Yellow Rice, I learned that you can cook this in two different ways. You can either just throw in everything in the pot and cook it or you can sauté the rice while having the other ingredients simmering. Then you can put the rice inside to cook all together. If I wanted to serve this to anyone I would serve it to my family because they are Liberian.


1 cup long grain white rice
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups water


In a saucepan, combine the salt, turmeric, sugar, cinnamon, butter and water. Melt the butter in a saute pan, and saute the rice for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Bring the liquid to a boil, uncovered. When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Add the sauteed rice. Cover and let it simmer for 15 -20 minutes. Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork. Keep warm until serving time.


Triple Chocolate Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel by Aldrina Dawkins


I chose to make a triple chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and caramel drizzle on the side. I enjoyed making the caramel because I never made it so I wanted to see how it would turn out. My challenge was deciding what to serve along with the brownie. I learned that anything you want to make, no matter how hard it looks or if you think you can’t make it, just try it anyway. The best thing you could ever do is to try. It might turn out better than you thought.


6 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate chopped

¾ cups unsalted  butter

1 ½ cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup all -purpose flour

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Set a metal bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Melt the bittersweet chocolate and the unsweetened chocolate with the butter, stirring until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat, and let the mixture cool until it is lukewarm. Stir in the sugar and vanilla and add eggs, 1 at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir in the salt and flour, stirring until the mixture is just combined, and stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 13-by 9 inch baking pan. Smooth the top, and bake the mixture in the middle of a preheated  350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering to it. Let the mixture cool completely in the pan on a rack and cut it into 24 bars.

Easy Caramel Sauce

Ingredients :

1 packed cup brown sugar

½ cup half and half

4 tablespoons butter

pinch salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Mix the brown sugar, half-and-half, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until it gets thicker. Add vanilla and cook another minute to thicker further. Turn off the heat, cool slightly and pour the sauce into a jar . Refrigerate until cold.