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South Jordan Journal

Bingham High culinary students compete at regionals

May 02, 2019 03:03PM ● By Julie Slama

At the regional competition, Bingham High ProStart students work as a team, create each of the three dishes in one hour, without electricity, including this Thai shrimp cake. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When Bingham High culinary students were trying to think of a menu in the fall, they were inspired by the foreign exchange student who suggested a Thai theme.

So, after months of preparing Thai shrimp cakes, teriyaki ribeye and a coconut mango mousse, Bingham’s team walked to their assigned area at the regional competition Feb. 21, ready to compete.

“They had to practice and learn everything has its place in a 10-foot cooking area where they have to not only prepare the food but also to cook it on two gas burners and put on the finishing touches,” said Bingham teacher Mallory Vanden Brink.  

Similar to The Great British Baking Show or Chopped reality TV shows, these high school culinary arts students are showcasing what they’ve learned and putting it to the test.

At the central region contest, teams typically compete against 12 to 14 teams. Each team, which typically has five members, can only use two burners to prepare a three-course meal consisting of an appetizer, entrée and dessert in 60 minutes. Student chefs are not allowed to use electricity. They are judged on techniques such as knife safety to menu planning and from creating a business plan to taste of the prepared meal. 

While four members of the team worked together to dice and mince, the fifth acts as manager and timekeeper, ensuring the team was on track to meet the 60-minute time limit. 

“They’re frying, braising, puree-ing,” Vanden Brink said. “They learn they are capable of producing eloquent food. When they work together, they can accomplish great things.”

Afterward, the team is given immediate feedback from the judges.

Bingham’s team of junior Isaac Wakefield and seniors Hunter Delcambre, Madeline Hales, Nat Kittipanyapat and Isaac Moses is one of 70 ProStart programs in Utah.

ProStart is a national two-year program for high school students that develops talent for restaurant and food service industry. Students learn culinary techniques, management skills, communication, customer service skills, math, nutrition, and workplace and food safety procedures. They also learn effective leadership, working under pressure and responsibility.

Melva Sine, the president and CEO of the Utah Restaurant Association, which oversees Utah’s ProStart program, said the 20-year program gives students real-life skills.

“These competitors are able to think on their feet, know how to season or flavor, make a plate look as good as it tastes, work as a team to make a decision, and at the same time, know the proper knife safety, grilling, food handling, sanitation procedures,” she said. “It definitely will help them when they work and own their own restaurants.”

This year, ProStart teams will be honored at a May 23 gala honoring the best in the state, including the team from Sandy’s Alta High, which won the state culinary arts championship in its first season and will represent Utah at nationals May 8–10 in Washington, D.C.