Posted by: Tom Ross | April 12, 2011

California Students Compete in Culinary Arts Statewide

When I was in high school—back during the Punic Wars—guys didn’t take Home Ec. It wasn’t until I was in college that I took a cooking course. There I gained a kind of Depression era confidence (inspired by my mom) that helps me whip up something innovative no matter what ingredients are available. (My cream puffs are still, how you say, sans pareils.)

But today’s high school culinary programs offer more than “home cooking.” They are a career pathway for students to culinary careers in restaurants or in the hospitality industry. Here are two examples of how these industries have taken notice and are supporting these programs.

On April 7th, the annual Wine County Chefs of Tomorrow competition took place at the Vintners Inn in Santa Rosa California. (Read a preview of the event here.) Students from seven local high schools competed for both the Peoples’ Choice award and/or the approval of celebrity judges. The students were paired with local chefs from Sonoma County, and their task was to create an appetizer inspired by each chef’s heritage. (The funds raised are shared equally by all participating schools.)

Piner High School Team; Photo credit: Karen Giovannini

The schools in the competition were Casa Grande High School with Sheraton Tolay Restaurant Chef Danny Mai; El Molino High School with Bodega Bay Lodge Duck Club Chef Jeff Reilly; Healdsburg High School with Hotel Healdsburg Dry Creek Kitchen Chef Dustin Valette; Piner High School with Applewood Inn and Restaurant Chef Bruce Frieseke; and Sonoma Valley High School with Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn Sante Chef Robert Champagne; Maria Carillo High School with Chef Rene Jakushak of the Santa Rosa Hilton’s Nectar Restaurant; and Windsor High School with Chef Richard Whipple of Hyatt Vineyard Creek Brasserie.

Stephen Jackson, Director of Career Development and Workforce Preparation Services at the Sonoma County Office of Education, says that interest in culinary arts is booming. Sonoma County invests $500,000 of its CTE funds to its culinary programs.

This year’s winners were Piner High School for the Judges’ Choice and Maria Carrillo High School the Peoples’ Choice (their sixth consecutive win!). See what they served at Piner High School here.

For more information about this competition, visit the Chefs of Tomorrow website.

At the same time, eight students from the Shasta Union High School District in Redding competed in the ninth annual California ProStart Competition sponsored by the California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. Six students were from Enterprise High School and two were from Shasta High School. They were chosen from 25 students in CTE culinary instructor and local chef Cal DeMercurio’s food service and hospitality careers course.

Four students had 60 minutes to prepare an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. The remaining four students worked on the management side, designing a 50’s style diner and menu.

To see what they served and how they fared, read the article in The Record Searchlight.

For the second consecutive year, Newport Harbor High School’s culinary and management teams both won first place at the ninth annual California ProStart Competition. This is the third consecutive victorious year for the Newport school in the Boyds Coffee Culinary Cup event, and its second win in the BJ’s Restaurants Management Cup. The teams won scholarships and will be sponsored by the Cheesecake Factory Oscar and Evelyn Overton Charitable Foundation to compete in the 2011 National ProStart Invitational in Overland Park, Kansas April 29 through May 1.

In the culinary competition, Greenville High School of Greenville won second place and Pacific Grove’s Pacific Grove High School earned third place. In the management event, Mira Mesa High School of San Diego earned second place and Redding’s Enterprise High School came in third place. Second- and third-place teams also earned scholarships to several culinary and hospitality higher-education programs. Nearly 150 students from 22 California high schools convened for the event.

For more information on the competition, go to the California Restaurant Associations news and updates or visit their website.  The California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation has awarded more than $1 million in scholarships and grants since 1981.

Photos by Taras Garcia/CRAEF.

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