KSU Culinary Apprenticeship Program Concludes with Mystery Basket Challenge

I might be a bit biased writing this story. I’m a graduate of Kennesaw State University, located in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA.  A couple of years ago I attended a social media conference there.  As part of the conference we were treated to lunch at The Commons. This is the university’s “food court” if you will. I was amazed at the diverse offerings…for lunch! These included a lamb shank and pork belly biscuit among other appetizing features. My how my college had changed. When I went there, I was happy when I was able to get bacon on my ground beef taco.

KSU Culinary Students getting ready for the Mystery Basket competition

Doing a little research, I was very surprised to find out just how impressive their culinary program is. Fast forward to a couple months ago, when I was invited to the “Mystery Basket” competition put on by the KSU Culinary Apprenticeship program. My Alma Mater had evolved into producing talented graduates into a field a feel so passionate about? I couldn’t wait to find out what was in store for me.

Mystery Basket Competition – Open, Prep, Cook!

The Culinary Apprenticeship Certificate is a 9-month intense program designed for aspiring culinary professionals with a passion for food who desire something more than the traditional, classroom-based culinary education program. Students work hands-on in the kitchens of accomplished professional chefs who provide the tools needed to succeed in the hospitality industry.

I arrived and was escorted to the kitchen where the Mystery Basket comepetition would take place. I wrongly assumed that each student would be given the same box of food to work with, but it ended up that each was given a very different basket of food: chicken, quail, halibut,  veggies and lastly steak.


The students quickly assessed what proteins they were given to work with and their minds racing to decided what to prepare. They were given 70 minutes to prepare a delicious plate of food to be judged. So they quickly got to work assembling their unique dish. And here’s what I got to eat for dinner:

Ashley – Grilled halibut steak over saffron rice with sauteed bok choy and shishito lemon white wine sauce
Ken Sauteed chicken with brown chicken reduction sauce on grilled endive served with herb-infused goat cheese, sweet pickled beets and garnished with pomegranate and grilled tomatoes
Jerry Bison flank steak with grilled new potatoes and breaded zucchini with chili sweet sauce
Chris Pan-seared quail with port demi sauce, dandelion rocket salad and sauteed egg pasta
Connor – Walnut-encrusted chicken over wilted greens, sweet potato puree, pickled radish and shishito pepper

KSU Culinary PRogram Atlanta KSU Culinary Program
(L: Walnut encrusted Chicken, R: Quail and egg pasta)

 Not only was I impressed by the professionalism or the students’ work, plating and taste, but the fact that they are able to accomplish this is just 9 short months. What’s more is the sheer diversity of the students. Some were young and eager to start a career in the culinary world, while others were retired and looking for something to spark some creativity.