IHS students hone culinary skills

Marshall Shanks, Gene Wright and Grant Lehman practice knife skills during their ProStart cooking class at Ilwaco High School. A group of students from the class recently took part in a culinary competition in Seattle. DAMIAN MULINIX photo

ILWACO - A group of Ilwaco High School students recently had the opportunity to use more than knives to sharpen their culinary skills.

Seven students from Bobbi Lyndsay's ProStart cooking class at IHS competed in the third annual Boyd Coffee Culinary Cup and Hospitality Invitational on March 2 and March 3 in Seattle. The contest was attended by over thirty high schools from around the state. And though they were not a top finalist, Lyndsay said it was still a success.

"Actually, I thought we did really well because we were going against 3A and 4A schools."

They took seventh in the competition last year, their first try.

"We're going against some schools that bring 75 to 100 students for their team, and I think our class has 13 in it right now."

The competition tests many phases in the food service industry, including a Knowledge Bowl featuring different areas in the culinary arts.

Another part of the contest featured the teams preparing a "signature" meal. The IHS menu included: a spring greens and orange salad with balsamic vinaigrette, apricot glazed chicken thighs stuffed with sausage and rice, sesame green beans with sweet red peppers and a dessert of blueberries and cream parfait.

"We had an hour, start to finish, prepped by a team of four," said Lyndsay. "I though we did really well."

They prepared each dish individually in 15-minute intervals so that judges wouldn't have all the teams ending simultaneously. This took place in the teaching kitchens at the Art Institute of Seattle, which despite its size, was still a bit of a tight squeeze with that many competitors.

"It was really crowded," said Lyndsay. "We had a table probably ten-feet long and two feet wide."

Showcasing knife skills was another big part of the contest, where the students had an hour to make several cuts including a quarter-inch dice, an eighth-inch Julienne, round carrot nickel, chop parsley fine and mince garlic. Each student had to do two ounces of each.

They did not compete in the restaurant operation portion of the contest this year which includes figuring out the cost to make the signature meal and pitching it to a restaurant for placement on their menu.

"Part of the reason for the competition is to get the students aware of the hospitality industry," said Lyndsay.

The Renaissance Madison Hotel in the "Emerald City" provided rooms for the students for both days of the contest. Meals were provided by the Art Institute of Seattle and other various businesses in that area. The students, as part of the Sunday Night Social, which kicked off the event, included a three and half hour cruise around the Puget Sound. In total, all their meals except for two were provided.

"For a three day trip, that's pretty good support," said Lyndsay.

IHS senior Carmon Jenkins is attending the class and the competition for the first time this year.

"I thought it was very interesting, how they combined the knife skills, the Knowledge Bowl, and the actual culinary part," she said. "It's really fun. The experience of meeting new people, seeing all the different dishes, creativity, that we came up with."

She said that living in this area is what got her interested in the ProStart cooking class at IHS.

"When you live on the Peninsula, it's a small area, you need to find some sort of hobby to keep you occupied," she said. "I think cooking is a good way, it's something you can do everyday."

Gene Wright, who is also a senior at IHS, enjoyed more than just competing, but also seeing what other students could do.

"It was a really good opportunity to see what other people could do in the food service industry," he said. "Some of the people just did so well. Not to say that we didn't - of course we did - but some people were extraordinary in what they did."

He said the fact that there aren't very many extracurricular activities for students, outside of sports, is what lead him to the class.

"It's a good opportunity to do something," he said, "plus I like to eat, too."

ProStart is a two-year program that is sponsored by the National Restaurant Association. Lyndsay said she will be rotating the curriculum every other year for new students who enter the class.

"If they [students] take both years and pass a national test and work in the industry for 400 hours, they can get an automatic $2,000 scholarship to any culinary school nationwide," she said.

This is only the second year that IHS has offered the ProStart class, which has only been available for three years in the state. Lyndsay said that she thinks that there are a couple of students in her class who will probably use the experience gained in the course toward a career in the culinary industry.Recipes as used by the IHS ProStart team at the third annual Boyd Coffee Culinary Cup and Hospitality Invitational in SeattleApricot Glazed Chicken Thighs Stuffed with Sausage and Rice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 pound sweet Italian sausage

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped carrots

2 tablespoons finely chopped celery

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon minced orange zest

3/4 cup long grain white rice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoon chicken base

1/2 cup apricot preserves

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

2 boned chicken leg/thigh piece 4 to 6 ounces each

1. In saucepan combine water and chicken base. Stir well. Add rice, bring to boil and simmer about 15 minutes.

2. In a separate saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned , about 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of orange zest. Stir in parsley, thyme, cinnamon and salt. When rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes, add to sausage mixture.

3. Meanwhile, in a saucepan make the glaze by combining the puree, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of orange zest, sugar and orange juice. Whisk to combine and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until reduced by half, 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

4. Season the boned chicken legs lightly with salt and pepper. Stuff leg with rice/sausage, pull the skin up around the filling. Secure shut with a toothpick.

5. Preheat oven proof saute pan on range. Add two tablespoons oil. When hot, saute chicken until golden (lid may be used for a few minutes). Flip and brown on the other side. Coat chicken with apricot glaze and brown under broiler until tender and cooked. Remove from the oven and serve.

Blueberries N' Cream Parfait

BLUEBERRY FILLING

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup water

6 ounces fresh or frozen (slightly thawed) blueberries

1. Combine sugar and corn starch in small saucepan. Mix well.

2. Add blueberries and water, heat slowly to boil. Simmer about 5 minutes until thick.

3. Chill (in ice bath if necessary) until needed.

CREAM CHEESE FILLING

3 squares of graham crackers, crushed

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

3 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons confectioners sugar

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a small bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and butter. Cool.

2. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and milk until smooth.

3. In a chilled bowl, whip the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff.

4. Place 1 tablespoon of crumb mixture in bottom of each glass.

5. Top with 1/4 of cream cheese filling mixture, then 1/4 of blueberry filling mixture.

6. Repeat using remainder of all ingredients.

7. Keep chilled until serving time.

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