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Smith Vocational students bested by Chicopee Comp in kielbasa contest

  • The ends of kielbasa are tied, Thursday, at Smith Vocational High School in Northampton.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    The ends of kielbasa are tied, Thursday, at Smith Vocational High School in Northampton.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smith Vocational student Meagan Stenico of Westhampton ties the ends of kielbasa, Thursday, at the school.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Smith Vocational student Meagan Stenico of Westhampton ties the ends of kielbasa, Thursday, at the school.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Meat for kielbasa awaits stuffing, Thursday, at Smith Vocational High School.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Meat for kielbasa awaits stuffing, Thursday, at Smith Vocational High School.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • The ends of kielbasa are tied, Thursday, at Smith Vocational High School in Northampton.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Smith Vocational student Meagan Stenico of Westhampton ties the ends of kielbasa, Thursday, at the school.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Meat for kielbasa awaits stuffing, Thursday, at Smith Vocational High School.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

— Student chefs from Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School didn’t win a kielbasa-making contest Friday, but one judge said they surprised and impressed judges with their tasty, innovative recipe.

Chicopee Comprehensive High School won the competition arranged by the Polish Center of Discovery and Learning in Chicopee as a way to teach youth about Polish cuisine and culture.

The team of seven Smith culinary arts students, under the direction of Chef Nelson Lacey, had originally planned to use a classic kielbasa recipe for the links that they would enter in the competition. But they decided instead to abandon tradition, creating a white or biala kielbasa that is boiled instead of smoked, and stuffed it with pork mixed with jalapenos and cheese.

“It was really good,” said judge Greg Bernat, co-owner of Bernat’s Polish Deli in Chicopee. “They had a sauce to go with it, and it was really delicious.”

Chicopee Comprehensive opted to make a traditional smoked kielbasa. “They went on two very different ends of the spectrum, so that made it really hard to judge,” he said.

The sausages were judged on taste, texture and presentation. Bernat said that on his scorecard, the teams were separated by one point, and it came down to the texture. “Chicopee Comp.’s kielbasa had a better texture and was bound tighter,” he said. “Smith’s was drier.”

The week before the competition, Bernat went to both high schools to teach the students how to make the sausages. He also donated a $260 hand-crank meat stuffer to the Smith Vocational kitchen because the culinary arts program did not have one and he didn’t want students to be at a disadvantage in the contest.

He said the first-ever interscholastic kielbasa-making contest was a big success and the Polish Center, of which he is a board member, will likely do it again next year.

“Hopefully we can get more schools to compete next year,” he said.

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