Student culinary group set to rock the competition

New travel team focuses on regional cooking contests
February 14, 2020

A new student culinary team is set to rock the regional cooking-contest circuit with the help of two self-proclaimed nontraditional chefs.

The Cullen-ary Competition Team, brainchild of epicurean educator and former Bad Company bassist Paul Cullen and former Cape High culinary teacher Donnie Vanderslice, is welcoming area students from sixth through 12th grades to join what they call a food-sport travel team.

“It’s the first of its kind,” said Vanderslice, who said he got the idea for the program after his Cape High students won most creative wings at Ocean 98’s sixth annual Best Wings on the Shore Contest at Crooked Hammock in 2019.

Vanderslice said students will be competing against professionals, and will attend class at Paul’s Kitchen in Lewes, where Cullen offers in-home dining events, cooking classes and a gourmet Sunday market.

“This fits right in with what we’re trying to do here,” Cullen said. “After classes, students can also help prep in the kitchen and set up for pop-up dinners for hands-on experience.” 

The small setting is perfect and conducive to learning, Vanderslice said, because students will have more individualized attention and be more at ease to ask questions and brainstorm unique recipes. 

“Age is not a barrier to learning the culinary field and competing,” he said.

Students will learn all facets of the hospitality and culinary industry, of which food is a small part, Vanderslice said. Management, hospitality law, marketing and financial aspects of the business will also be discussed.

Classes will begin Monday, March 3, to prepare for the 30th annual Harry K Chocolate Festival March 14 at Atlantic Sands Hotel & Conference Center in Rehoboth.

Classes will meet from 3 to 5:15 p.m., Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday, Vanderslice said. The cost for eight classes is $480 and $960 for 16 classes and includes food and cooking space. Transportation and lodging for weekend out-of-town competitions are not included. 

For more information or to enroll, contact Vanderslice at or 302-480-4797.

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