Archive for the ‘Students’ Category

Are you gellin’?

May 18th, 2010
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Nadine Kam photos
Radford’s Atrianne  Trasmonte shows his winning molecular gastronomy dish of a pork patty Loco Moco topped with gelled egg yolk, ketchup and gravy layers. A closeup of the dish is at the bottom of the page.

There was a whole lot of gellin’ going on at Radford High School yesterday when students from the school and James Campbell High School went head to head in a molecular gastronomy competition.

Five judges were treated to an array of salad, entrées and desserts created by the students to demonstrate their mastery of chemistry as applied to the kitchen.

Radford High School teacher Ryan Saito led the project last school year, integrating the food service program as well.
I guess I could say my own introduction to molecular gastronomy came in a high school chem class as well, though, long before the world had heard of El Bulli’s Ferran Adria or WD-50’s Wylie Dufresne, we didn’t have a name for chemically enhanced food prep.


Radford student Cody Schlosser uses his hands to explain to judge Erika Engle the chemical reaction that causes the tomato sauce in his Pizza Puffs to turn into spheres. His dish was the students’ pick for winning entry, a tie with Campbell students Angela Cezar’s and David McAngus’s Banana Foamster, a play on Bananas Foster.

Taking a break from the typical high school experiments in our Waipahu High School classroom, teacher Gretchen Jong show how Karo, combined with a few basic chemicals would react to create peanut brittle!

I didn’t really get science at the time. That would explain how I ended up, from college on, working with words. All I thought of our experiment was, “Why are we eating out of this beaker when we know where it’s been? Pass the candy.”

Now, looking back, I see how marvelous that heating a combination of sucrose and glucose, mixed with sodium chloride and sodium bicarbonate, and other ingredients, creates a foam that hardens into something greater than the sum of its parts.



Jamie Tejada shows the seafood, gelatin gumbo and garlic foam he rolled with rice and sheets of nori into yummy Shrimp Gumbo Rolls. The students named him the winner for best use of foam.

The ingredients? Granulated sugar, Karo (corn syrup), table salt, and baking soda. Other ingredients used were protein pellets (peanuts), solidified mixed esters (margarine) and 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde (vanilla extract). If I had more imagination then, who knows what further experiments would have turned out?

LUCKILY, students participating in the contest had plenty of imagination, and dutifully recorded their scientific method, trial and errors in their science journals. They said their teachers instructed them to start with what they enjoy eating most. The end result was such a varied potluck, the students were excited and anxiously waited for the judges to complete their rounds so they could have a crack at the dishes.

When it was over, Radford’s Atrianne Trasmonte was the victor for a Loco Moco that consisted of a pork burger on a rice cracker, layered with Knox-gelled brown gravy, ketchup and egg yolk. Each layer could be cut into any shape, picked up and eaten one at a time. He also tried ketchup foam.

From left are Campbell High School students Porscha Lau, Shaena Le, Maria Sarmiento and Jennifer Romero with their dessert creations. Most of the Campbell students focused on desserts. Below, Sarmiento and Romero’s second-place Strawberry Parfait Delight.


Second place went to Jennifer Romero and Maria Sarmiento of Campbell High, for their light and luscious Strawberry Parfait Delight, made of layers of gelled yogurt and strawberry spheres made with pureed strawberries and the addition of calcium chloride (salt) and sodium alginate (algae-based thickener). Together, they react to form a firm, delicate gelatin.

In third place was Daniel Agbayani-Tagama of Campbell, who could revolutionize the way parents feed greens to their kids, with his recipe for Daniel’s Salad. Greens are simply sprinkled with savory cubes of “dressing,” created by mixing sour cream, ranch dressing powder and Knox gelatin, which helped give it a more solid form, ready to be cut into crouton-shaped squares. Judge Erika Engle, a fellow SBer, ended up asking him for the recipe, which she would like to try in her own household.

The messy Loco Moco transformed into finger food by Atrianne Trasmonte.

Student picks for best edibles were:
Winner (tie): Angela Cezar and David McAngus: Banana Foamster (Campbell)
Cody Schlosser: Pizza sphere (Radford)
Best dessert: Shaena Le and Porscha Lau: Chocolate Coconut Haupia Pie (Campbell)
Best appetizer: Atrianne Trasmonte: Loco moco (Radford)
Best use of gel: Atrianne Trasmonte: Loco moco (Radford)
Best use of foam: Jamie Tejada: Shrimp Gumbo roll (Radford)

Missing in action were Gabriel Vega and Damon Trent, who were supposed to be cooking up A1 Steak. Maybe next year?

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