CIT Students Cooked Delicacies at the Olympics

May 15th, 2002 | By | Category: 13-4: The Many Faces of Leadership, Tribal College News
GERALD NOTAH

Gerald Notah wielded the frybread at the Olympics. Photo by Pearl Nez

“It was a constant adrenaline rush,” said Crownpoint Institute of Technology (CIT) culinary arts student Alden Yazzie of the three weeks he spent at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The Navajo Nation’s Discover Navajo 2002 committee invited Yazzie and his classmates to cook at this year’s games. With their instructor, Chef Bob Witte, the students joined Executive Chef Sandy Garcia to ply their culinary skills in Salt Lake City.

The class practiced for a month at the tribal college in Crownpoint, NM, before leaving in January for Salt Lake City. They became adept at preparing delicacies such as carved leg of wild boar, Potowatami little pie, roasted buffalo tenderloin medallions, Mayan sweet onion marmalade, and Yukon Gold potato medallions. And, yes, frybread.  During that month CIT staff appreciatively sampled the practice menu.

Garcia, who is from New Mexico’s Santa Clara Pueblo, designed the menus. “There was no European influence,” he said. “It reflected Native American cuisine from pre-Colombian days to the present—with a classical twist.”

Pearl Nez said one of the most memorable experiences was catering Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson’s reception where she got her picture taken with the mayor. Sherry Smith remembers the diners’ enthusiastic response. Smith liked the food, too; she sampled the entire menu—including alligator. Olivia Montoya loved the excitement of being part of the Olympics. “I knew we were doing an important job. And I got to hold the Olympic Torch.” “Our practice paid off,” said Nathaniel David, “and we sure learned a lot about off-site catering.”

In his three years’ teaching culinary arts at CIT, Bob Witte and his students have amassed an impressive assortment of awards. In March 1999, competing against professional chefs from throughout the state at Albuquerque’s annual Chocolate Fantasy competition, CIT students won the People’s Choice award and took second place overall in the event. The 2000 class swept first, second, and third place in the annual state VICA competition. This year’s work at the Winter Olympics was the most demanding and in some ways the most rewarding project so far, Witte said.

“The students overcame problems you typically confront in food service—tension, cramped quarters, transporting food,” he said. People responded enthusiastically to the students’ work; they have job offers waiting when they graduate, he said. As Alden Yazzie said, “It made me proud of being Navajo.”

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