Sweets at the Beach culinary competition- Oxnard High School District

By George Miller

KADYTV recorded the first annual Oxnard High School District Culinary Academy “Top Chef'” Competition at the beautiful oceanfront Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort in Oxnard. The school district has established 22 career academies to prepare its students for real-world jobs by teaching real world skills.


Top Chefs winners are announced and it’s Team #2- Mark Navarro and Mariah Smith! (Photo from KADYTV video)

Pacifica and Rio Mesa High Schools each house culinary academies and organized this competition under the sponsorship of the Mandalay Embassy Suites. This is part of the district’s “Linked Learning” initiative, which provides the academies and partnerships with local companies, which provide: input to the curriculum, expertise, internship and job opportunities for graduates. The program also enables advanced placement in the Oxnard College culinary program. There are about 100 students enrolled in the culinary academies in the two participating high schools.


District Superintendent Gabe Soumakian was there, as well as Culinary Academy Director Matt Rockwell (Pacifica High), Academy Director Cynthia Allen (Rio Mesa High) and DECA Academy Director Aaron Fergeson (Rio Mesa High).  The event was organized and executed by DECA, in cooperation with the school district and Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach- Academy teacher in charge of event was Donnie Rea Jr.

Location of Competition: Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach

Head Chef – Nikki Newman, Manager – Malissa Salinas

From Mr. Rockwell: “It was amazing of them to let us use their kitchen.  Beautiful hotel and restaurant.”

Competitors were: Team 1 Mark Navarro (Rio), Raven de la Trinidad (Pacifica) and the winning team 2 of Lidor Levi (Rio Mesa) and Mariah Smith (Pacifica), had an hour to make six identical plates each,  highlighting 3 ingredients: Dried Pasilla Peppers, Strawberries, Meyer Lemons.

Team 1 made: a Chocolate Strawberry Tart: chocolate almond tart/vanilla bean pastry cream/fresh strawberries/meyer lemon glaze/dried pasilla salted caramel.

Team 2 (winners) made a White Chocolate Strawberry Mille Feuille (this is a layered dessert: cookie/Strawberries/cookie/mousse/cookie) – white chocolate mousse/brown sugar tuile cookie/dried pasilla + strawberry coulis/meyer lemon gastrique.
Culinary Program

Mr Rockwell told us that about 20% of their graduates go on to college, 10-20% to culinary schools, and 50-60% go to community colleges or take jobs with local firms. He said that the academy graduates have a major advantage in securing jobs. Many also secure internships first. While students are enrolled, they also take and pass state food handling and food management certifications, which enable them to be immediately hired by food service organizations and more rapidly progress to management or top kitchen positions, which pay considerably more than entry level food service jobs, although many organizations want new hires to get such experience before progressing. Did someone say “living wages?”

We have heard that the Oxnard “Linked Learning” approach not only works closely with area companies to help ensure that curriculum prepares students and affords them internship and employment opportunities, but also attempts to integrate different subjects to improve overall education results. I asked Mr. Rockwell to give me an example of the latter and he cited chemistry class and that teachers often conduct classes in the kitchen. He told me how a chemistry teacher, Diane Winters, explained scientifically and demonstrated to students why chocolate “tempering” must be carefully controlled up to 100 degrees then to 80, or its properties will not be suitable.


This video (below) is  a 4-28-15 field episode of the Good Morning Oxnard show, which is recorded most Wednesday mornings (usually available as video on demand on kadytv.net within a couple of days), offering local personalities, issues and events- Hyper-local news, in the KADYTV tradition!   Past shows archived on the web site and via Citizensjournal.us.

Because the video is a full, lonnnnng, unedited version, you may wish to scan/fast forward to see the most interesting parts. We’ll try to get you an edited highlights version later.




Video: “Sweets at the Beach” 2015 culinary academy “Top Chefs” competition/cook-off. Results start at 1:10:00





Pacifica High School



Event photos from DECA business academy teacher Aaron Ferguson: @Mr_Ferguson_PHS


Local Young Chefs Discover Culinary Talents at Upcoming ‘Top Chef Competition at Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort’

Local Young Chefs Discover Culinary Talents at Upcoming ‘Top Chef Competition at Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort’

Local high school students will put their culinary skills to the test during a ‘Top Chef Competition’ on April 28 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort in Oxnard. Held in association with the Embassy Suites, Oxnard High School District and Alliance Link Learning, high school students […]


Show location:EmbassyMandalay

About Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort

Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort creates an ambiance of far away destinations set in a tranquil ocean-front location. Our hotel is located on the beautiful Pacific in-between Santa Barbara and Malibu. The only all-suite hotel in Southern California to sit directly on the beach, the resort contains 250 two room suites and features the signature amenities standard at any Embassy Suites Hotel including free cooked-to-order breakfast each morning and a complimentary two-hour Manager’s Reception each evening. The guest suites have a living area with a sofa bed, dining/work table, two HD TV’s, high-speed Internet access, a wet bar, mini-refrigerator, microwave oven, separate private bedroom and 2 private baths. Onsite amenities include a large freeform swimming pool, which is adjacent to a large whirlpool. A second whirlpool specifically for adults is also on property, allowing for more privacy and relaxation. In addition, the resort contains a workout room, lighted tennis, volleyball, sport courts and business center. Our guests can enjoy spa services in their suite or in our treatment rooms. Bicycle rentals are conveniently located on site, and nearby options include the opportunity to surf, kayak, sail, paddle board, and boat… Or just simply soak up the golden rays!

Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort

  2101 Mandalay Beach Rd, Oxnard, CA 93035
(805) 984-2500


George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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