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South Kitsap High School students get cooking

South Kitsap High School student Sarah Morris rolls out pasta during a cooking competition Saturday in West Seattle. - Justine Frederiksen/Staff Photo
South Kitsap High School student Sarah Morris rolls out pasta during a cooking competition Saturday in West Seattle.
— image credit: Justine Frederiksen/Staff Photo

As if the constant stream of inquisitive judges and stern-looking people wielding stopwatches wasn’t enough to make her nervous during a cooking contest Saturday, Sarah Morris’ pasta maker stopped working.

Nearly as soon as the South Kitsap High School student began flattening pasta dough on a hand-cranked machine, the handle came loose, halting all progress on her open-faced ravioli.

Luckily, Morris enlisted the help of her fellow students to get the machine rolling again, and the team finished preparing its meal of blackened salmon ravioli, deconstructed Chicken Jambalaya and crème brûlée without another mishap.

The team of four — which also included Dylan Weaver, Amber Holloway and Kayla Baux — were competing in the state’s 2010 Boyd Coffee ProStart Invitational, which had high school students from across the state competing for scholarship money by creating three-course meals in 60 minutes at South Seattle Community College March 6.

No electric or battery-operated tools could be used during the competition, and the actual cooking was done on two camp stoves. There were 21 teams competing.

Teacher Kris Boyle said the team from SKHS was made up of students in SKHS’s new ProStart Culinary Arts program, which launched this year.

“This program is for students who have a real interest in being a chef, owning or managing a restaurant, or pursuing a career in the hospitality trade,” said Boyle, explaining that the students don’t just learn how to cook food, but the many other skills required to run a restaurant, such as preparing a menu, figuring out the cost of ingredients in each plate, hiring staff and customer service.

To prepare for the competition Saturday, the class met with chefs from Port Orchard restaurant Amy’s On The Bay — Grant Matsuno, co-owner and executive chef, and Sous Chef Ben Downey.

“They were really good with the students,” Boyle said of the chefs, remembering that Matsuno helped inspire the team to create its menu by encouraging the teens to think of foods and cuisines they were passionate about.

Boyle said after meeting with the chefs, Weaver suggested making a deconstructed jambalaya, which involves presenting components of the dish separately on the plate rather than combined.

Boyle said Weaver was also inspired to create his own spice mix for the blackened salmon, and to cut okra “flowers” as garnish for the jambalaya.

In addition to learning how to cook, the students are learning the selling side of food service by operating a catering business from their classroom kitchen. Boyle said the students sell sandwiches to school staff three days a week, and provide event catering.

After Saturday’s competition, the top three schools were announced. Washington Restaurant Association spokeswoman Heather Donahoe said that Oak Harbor High School won first place in both the cooking and management categories. SKHS’s were not immediately available, but Donahoe said they did not place in the top three.

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