Orange County Students Shine in Hospitality and Culinary Competition


Tensions ran high on December 12th when 193 high schoolers competed in this year’s Orange County Public Schools Hospitality and Culinary Competition, hosted and sponsored by the Orlando World Center Marriott.

Students competed fiercely in several categories, including gourmet meals, knife skills, edible centerpieces, and desserts. A slew of judges, including chefs from several local resorts, Emily Ellyn from the Food Network and Edible Orlando publisher Kendra Lott, marked competitors on everything from taste to presentation to sanitation.

“I was a little stressed out,” says Winter Park High School’s Daniella Sauri (pictured above right with partner Reham Elsayed), “but we practiced seven times before the competition.” The girls prepared a spiced apple grunt (recipe below) that placed third overall in the dessert category. While both girls have culinary aspirations, Reham notes that “These are good skills to have, even if you don’t go into the profession.”

Participating high school students are enrolled in Florida’s ProStart program, a culinary management program with a goal to show students career opportunities within the culinary field and to prepare student for future careers in the hospitality industry.

Of the 360 students in attendance, those not competing participated in the event by attending a variety of activities including hotel tours and chef demonstrations.

We thought Daniella and Reham’s recipe turned out well and would be easy to recreate at home, especially without the competition clock ticking. We hope you agree that it’s a real winner.

appleSpiced Apple Grunt

serves 4

Sweet Dumpling Dough

1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup milk
½ cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped

Mix dry ingredients together. Slowly incorporate milk until well combined. Form dough into small balls, roll in pecans and set aside.

Apple Compote
(source: Daniella Sauri and Reham Elsayed)

½ cup butter
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Granny Smith apples (peeled and evenly chopped in medium to small chunks)
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, and apples and stir. Once apples begin to soften, add orange juice. Mixture should be hot. Place balls in mixture and allow to cook for 10 minutes uncovered, then for 10 minutes with a tight lid. Dumplings should puff up from the steam and be fully cooked. Add dried cranberries and stir gently.

Salted Carmel
(source: Ali Ebright from

1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons water
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon sea salt

Stir sugar and water in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking without stirring until mixture turns a dark amber color. Remove from heat and slowly add in heavy cream, stirring until smooth. Stir in vanilla and sea salt. Set aside until it reaches room temperature.

Spiced Whipped Cream
(source: Daniella Sauri and Reham Elsayed)

1/3 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon apple pie spice
1.4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Whisk cream until thickened; whisk in powdered sugar, apple pie spice, vanilla, and salt. Continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Finally, plate the sweet dumplings over the apple compote, drizzle with caramel, top with spiced whipped cream and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.