On Wednesday afternoon, six students at the Cascade Culinary Institute got to work on a whole new challenge, with a little ingenuity and a whole lot of milk substitute.
The virtual competition on the Central Oregon Community College campus saw teams of two from the CCI Culinary Club compete for more than $1,000 in cash prizes.
The catch? Each dish had to include Cheri’s HazelCream, a milk substitute made from Oregon Hazelnuts.
Cheri Redgrave of Bend invented the product under her company RCP Foods after she was forced to make diet changes of her own.
“When I turned 62, I got tested for allergies…I found out I was actually allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs and peas. So that started me doing all kinds of research,” she told Central Oregon Daily News on Wednesday.
Two and a half years later, Cheri’s HazelCream is on shelves in Locovore, Newport Avenue Market, and Food4Less, as well as on their website.
All purchasers need to do is add water to the dry mixture to produce a functioning milk substitute.
Freshman contestant Reagan Schleich is lactose intolerant, and appreciated the opportunity to use a product she could eat.
“A lot of lactose intolerant products like the substitutes, almond milk and coconut milk, are really hard to cook with,” she said.
“When we first started researching this, we found that about 30% of the people that would be interested in the product actually had allergies,” Redgrave said. “But those of us that do, it really is something that’s needed is a product you can cook and bake with. There’s not one on the market right now.”
A three-person panel blind judged dishes in the appetizers, main course, and dessert categories, basing their rankings on taste, best use of the product and plating.
“I’m nervous honestly, I’m going up against some pretty tough competitors,” Schleich said in advance of Wednesday’s competition. “They’re people who are my friends, but they’re also competition.”
Original recipes will be turned into an eBook with 100% of proceeds poured back into the culinary club.
For Redgrave, making food accessible for others is the ultimate reward.
She said she hopes to hold more competitions using Cheri’s HazelCream in the future.
“I’m hoping to use this as a gateway to get to some other colleges in town, because I want students who are going out into the world to become chefs to know about the product and to go out and expand,” she said.
To watch the replay of the livestream competition, visit the Cheri’s HazelCream YouTube Channel.
Results will be updated after 6:30 p.m.