December 19, 2013 | Vol. 39, No. 51

Culinary students to cook in statewide competition

Petersburg High School's advanced culinary arts students will be cooking at the ProStart culinary competition in Anchorage this spring.

Louise Lindley / Submitted Photo
"Chef Dave" watches Kayin McKay at the culinary boot camp in Juneau.

The nationally recognized program brings student chefs from around the state where they'll form teams and cook a three-course meal in one hour.

Louise Lindley, culinary arts teacher, said she's gearing her class up for the tough competition.

"They'll have 20 minutes to set up their station and they have one hour to execute two identical recipes," Lindley said. "It's pretty tough and we're going to be practicing quite a bit for it."

Lindley took her advanced class, Ben Johnson, Kayin McCay, Garison Brooks and Marie Giesbrecht, to Juneau for the competition's boot camp where they worked with an executive chef who prepared them for the event.

Johnson said the majority of the boot camp stressed the competition's rules and guidelines, which are extensive.

Teams can only cook with one burner. And they can't prepare ingredients with electrical equipment. Besides evaluating the food for flavor and presentation, the judges will watch out for good sanitation practices. If a kid wipes their hand on their apron, for example, judges will take points away.

The student chefs also have to ensure their dicing and mincing cuts are exact. Diced food must be one-half inch on all sides while minced food must be one-eighth inch all around.

"I wasn't really as confident with cuts until we did that. Now I actually know what they look like," Johnson said. "I'll be able to do it again."

The Alaska Farm to School grant provides funding for the culinary program. Lindley buys local ingredients like eggs and produce from The Farm in Petersburg. She also buys meat raised in Fairbanks.

Lindley said the class is currently preparing a menu. Although she can't give too much away, she let one secret slip.

"We, of course, are going to use local fish," Lindley said.

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