Top chef encourages rising students (Video)

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

March 20, 2013 at 5:04 p.m.
Updated March 20, 2013 at 10:21 p.m.

A Victoria chef is making a name for himself - and the Crossroads - in the international culinary world.

James Canter, Victoria County Club executive chef, won his third title for classic paella at the fourth annual Corona Paella Challenge against 25 of the top chefs across the U.S. and Latin America.

"We're beating out Master Chefs, celebrity chefs, Top Chef contestants, Iron Chef contestants," said Canter, 41. "To be the little guy and come in and clean sweep is very cool. I like being the underdog."

The dish, which dates to the 17th century, features short grain rice and is traditionally prepared with snails and rabbit.

"It was created out of necessity for the rice field workers," Canter said. "They would take these shallow metal pans, usually something like tilling equipment, and cook rice and whatever else they could find in the fields."

Along with the competition, five San Antonio area high schools entered. That's what Canter said is special.

The contest served as a scholarship fundraiser for aspiring chefs to attend culinary school.

Canter's goal is to use his passion to inspire aspiring chefs, culinarians and foodies, not only through the contest, but in Victoria, he said.

There is not a specific end-result, but the goal is to up the ante on the culinary scene, provide better food and service options and provide education to other cuisine.

"We've got something special and we should try to embrace it, learn from it and try to build it bigger - build a culinary scene," Canter said.

David Lynn, Victoria Career and Technology Institute Principal, said the school's culinary program is in its third year.

He estimated that the school has 60 students participating.

"Our kids are qualifying at the state level in Skills USA Texas," he said.

The current instructor will take a group of students to compete in Corpus Christi April 5 in the state-level contest.

Lynn said the program is geared toward professional presentation and specialty techniques rather than basic food prep.

"It's something like you'd see if you went to the country club or a nicer restaurant," he said.

Not only for those students, but for Canter, the thick of contest season is on.

Last weekend, he tried his hand in the Fine Swine Cook-Off in Floresville. Next up is the Ben E. Keith food purveyor show in April, the Top Chef competition in Victoria to benefit The Vine School and a competition for Trinity Episcopal School.

"It's important for a town like Victoria to realize they have many special talents that hold up on a national level," Canter said. "We should embrace our aspiring talents and cultivate it to encourage that spirit of education."



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