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Riverdale pupil gets taste of culinary arts

Photo by Johnny Jackson 
Dikita Whipple, 18, is a senior at Riverdale High School. She reads cookbooks to increase her knowledge of the culinary world. She competed in The Art Institute’s Best Teen Chef Competition March 2.

Photo by Johnny Jackson Dikita Whipple, 18, is a senior at Riverdale High School. She reads cookbooks to increase her knowledge of the culinary world. She competed in The Art Institute’s Best Teen Chef Competition March 2.

RIVERDALE — Dikita Whipple said she feels triumphant, though she was not an official winner.

Whipple, 18, is a senior at Riverdale High School. She recently competed against 10 other aspiring chefs for a chance to win tuition scholarships to The Art Institute of Atlanta.

The group of contestants put their kitchen skills to the test during The Art Institutes Best Teen Chef Competition March 2 at The International Culinary School. The three finalists were Cynthia Bobadilla, Breanna Thornton and Amir Mohamed Refaat.

“I did well,” said Whipple. “I didn’t win but I learned a lot.”

She said she also made three friends in the nerve-racking process.

Competitors had two hours to prepare and serve a two-course meal consisting of an appetizer of Shrimp Cocktail and an entrée of Sautéed Chicken Breast with Creative Garnish, Rice Pilaf and Broccoli Sauté.

They were judged on “five qualities of the finished dishes” — temperature, taste, texture, portion size and presentation. They were also scored on knife skills, safety, sanitation, organization, cooking techniques and clean-up.

A nervous Whipple cut herself. But, she said, judges consoled her with the knowledge that even the best chefs err.

“I’ve wanted to be a chef since I was little,” said Whipple.

The teenager said she learned to cook from her grandmother, a retired nurse, and her father, a bartender and a part-time disc jockey. Her aunt, a wizard at baking seven-layer cakes, helped her bake her first cake.

Whipple remembers she got a first hands-on lesson at 10. She said her aunt, Shirley Whipple, helped her bake a yellow cake with chocolate frosting — all from scratch.

“Where I used to live, it was kind of hard to find the ingredients,” she said.

The determined chef-in-training found the ingredients and set up shop in the kitchen. About 30 minutes later she was able to smell, see, feel and taste the fruits of her labor.

That feeling of accomplishment has stayed with her over the years and motivates her to pursue a formal education in front of an oven, cutting board and stove top.

Whipple said she sees her future in the eatery business and hopes to become a pastry chef and one day own a bakery herself.