By Natasha Clark
The four first place winners. To view all 21 cakes, see photo gallery below. Reminder Publications photos by Natasha Clark
Assistant Managing Editor
EAST LONGMEADOW You hear cake, you think delicious treat. How many of us hear cake and think work of art? East Longmeadow High School's culinary arts department continues to challenge the concept of food and its role beyond ingestion.
"And growing up they say don't play with your food," teased culinary arts teacher Mary Jane McMahon.
Close to 100 students from four different classrooms grouped together to design, bake and decorate 20 spring-themed cakes. The annual competition aims to bring creativity and teamwork to the kitchen.
On May 8 between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., students, teachers and members of the community came through to vote for a "second place" winner. First place was an honor students bestowed upon pre-schoolers who entered their Mother's Day flower-shaped cake into the running.
Over the course of five days, culinary students worked on the projects that ranged from spring break-themed beach designs and Sept. 11 memorials to graduation farewells and lacrosse fields. All items on the tasty creations had to be edible; each cake had to have two kinds of icing; three different decorating tools had to be employed; and marzipan had to be used.
McMahon said the competition is great way to arouse the students' imaginations because "there's not always an outlet for kids to be creative in schools."
"This is the most incredible project," added Denise Gauthier, also of the culinary arts department. "They have to be cooperative and come up with their own ideas ... it's the ultimate."
McMahon said there is nothing like "creating something from fresh ingredients."
Creative cooking has become a trend of its own over the last few years thanks to television shows such as the Food Network's "Ace of Cakes," where unconventional baker Duff Goldman shapes cakes with drill saws and blow torches. The kitchen has even spawned hits in the reality show arena FOX's "Hell's Kitchen" and Bravo's "Top Chef."
Ron DiSalvo, owner of Fare with Flair, a shop that provides a healthy alternative for family meals and takes care of all the prep work by providing meals ready-to-cook at home, said that it's good to see these shows have piqued an interest in people. He said it is especially wonderful to see youth getting involved.
"They did a great job. They were very creative. That's what it's all about," DiSalvo said after he dropped by the high school to cast a vote for his favorite creation. "I think cooking is a skill everyone should have and for young people it is a wonderful way to begin their work and career in food or customer service."
After votes were tabulated, the four first place winners were Froggie Can't Find the Fly, Palm Springs, Treasures Lay Ahead for the Class of '08 and The Surf Shop. Second place winners were Fun in the Sun, Congratulations to the Class of '08, Springtime Farewell and a tie between Spring Break and Mr. Freccero's Garden.
From toddlers using their fingers to create mountains of mashed potatoes to students using cake mix to design floating people in swimmng pools, McMahon said when it comes to food, "you can play and impress everyone."
To view all of the cakes in the contest, visit www.thereminder.com.