Young chefs fire up their grills for competition

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

VERONA – Fires blazed in the Lee County Agri-Center on Tuesday, but there were no safety concerns.
More than 60 4-H students from north Mississippi fired up grills to cook chicken, pork and beef. The young chefs were judged on taste, texture and appearance of their finished products, as well as sanitary procedures, tool usage and fire safety.
Blue-gray smoke hovered in the arena, and might have been responsible for turning Angela Love’s eyes red. But her eyes also could be blamed on the early start she and her son, Tyler Branch, 12, had to make.
“We left home at 5:30 in the morning so we could get here,” Love said.
Tyler was competing in the T-bone competition, which is one of his favorite cuts of meat.
“I don’t like steaks,” Love said, shaking her head. “I’m more into chicken, but he likes steaks. That’s what’s important.”
When cooking his steak, Anthony Bland, 15, from Sledge, used a special blend of herbs and spices that his dad concocted.
“Me and my dad have a barbecue twice a month through the year,” Anthony said. “That’s how I learned.”
The kids who grilled beef and pork were competing for prizes, while those working with chicken had the chance to move on to the state championship.
“The state winners will go to nationals in Kentucky,” said Jessica Wells with Mississippi State University’s poultry department.
Rebekah Corbin, 11, of Belden, was new to the chicken contest.
“This is the second time I’ve ever used a grill,” she said, “but I’ve watched my dad and brother do it.”
Matt Ray, 14, of West Point, is an old hand on his family’s Weber grill. He’s competed in the pork category in the past, but switched to chicken.
“The chicken takes a little longer,” he said. “You have to smoke it.”
scott.morris@journalinc.com