Two minutes, 29 seconds is what it took a “relay” team of three Avon Park High School culinary students to set up a table against the clock and bag first place in a culinary contest last month.
Mariah Claitt, Roxanne Guerndt and Zana Sutton were among 10 Avon Park High students who competed at the 13th annual ProStart Culinary Team Competition in Orlando.
The waiter relay competition was one of three categories the school competed in this year.
Students were timed as they set up a table, which included three types of knife settings and three kinds of napkin folds, along with placing plates and glasses. Anything that was not in place was penalized a minute, said Lynn Cloud, who teaches the culinary arts program at the high school.
She was excited to see that Avon Park High earned first place. Each of the three students in the team received a gold medal and a $10,000 scholarship from Keiser University.
Fifty-five high schools and/or technical schools competed in the four competitions: gourmet meal, edible centerpiece, waiter relay, and management.
Ever Mendoza represented Avon Park High in the edible centerpiece competition.
He had 60 minutes to prepare his centerpiece out of fruits and vegetables. He fashioned a birdcage out of a cantaloupe and black olives. He placed two birds he cut from apples in the cage. Ever placed seventh.
The school’s gourmet meal team was made up of David Castillo, Kevin O’Connor, Zack McKinney and Kathryn Welch.
Each student was required to learn how to do four of six knife cuts, such as dicing and mincing, and cut a chicken into eight pieces without cutting any bone.
Prior to their meal preparation, the students drew these skills from a cup and were given 15 minutes to either cut the chicken or perform two of the four knife cuts.
The fruits and vegetables that are minced or diced must be included in the gourmet meal menu and must remain in the knife cuts performed.
Next, the team was given 60 minutes to complete a three-course meal to include a starter (appetizer, soup or salad), an entrée (protein, starch and vegetable) and a dessert.
Avon Park’s menu was beef rollovers with barbeque and key lime dipping sauces, pan fried salmon over a bed of herb rice with a side of garlic asparagus. For dessert, they made spiced poached pear garnished with a chocolate sauce and toasted walnuts. This team placed among the top 20 teams in the competition.
The contests were held at the Orange County Convention Center. They were sponsored by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Education Foundation, Johnson and Wales University, Keiser University, LeCordon Bleu Culinary Institute, Coca Cola Co., Cracker Barrel and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Cloud, who has been teaching the culinary arts program for nine years, said it is a four- year program and is available to all students, grades 9-12.
Students may earn two different certificates: the ProStart National Certificate of Achievement and the ServSafe Manager’s Certificate. Students may also qualify for the Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholars award after taking a minimum of three culinary arts classes.