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Students cook up solutions at competition

Barlow High takes second place in two categories
by: Shanda Tice, Barlow High senior Chelsea Moore puts together a main course of flat iron steak with braised onions and butternut squash as her teammates, Sarah Scarnato and Alison Tribe, watch their joint creations come together at the Boyd’s Coffee Culinary Cup competition held Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. (Team member Elizabeth Seino not pictured).

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt walk into your restaurant, trailed by paparazzi, as a toilet explodes in one of your restrooms, drenching a customer.

Meanwhile, you can't serve any meat because it's become contaminated; a customer has sent back his order twice because it hasn't been prepared to his liking; and an employee just quit without warning.

A team of Barlow High School students had to grapple with these imaginary problems and more during the 2007 ProStart High School Culinary Championships on Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.

The championships drew teams made up of students from throughout the state enrolled in ProStart, a program that prepares students for positions in the hospitality industry.

The Barlow management team - seniors Daniel Doroteo, Ben Thompson and Holly Schnackenberg, and junior Kayla Larnard - competed in the Knowledge Bowl.

The team took second place in the category of Best Solution and second place in Most Professional, after judges presented team members with the Brad Pitt-exploding toilet scenario.

Their coach, Heidi Larson, culinary arts teacher at Barlow, praised the management team.

'It shows all their hard work paid off,' she says.

Team members say they told the judges they would allow Pitt, Jolie and the paparazzi in their eatery as long as the photographers agreed to sit down and not disturb the couple, and they would have offered Pitt and Jolie a table in a private room.

The team members also say they would have offered the toilet-soaked customer a free meal; have a chef personally apologize to the disgruntled customer; sanitize the kitchen after discovering the contaminated meat and then order a new supply of cuts; and offer overtime pay to any employee willing to come in and pick up the slack left by the one who quit.

All four students say they enjoy Barlow's culinary program.

'I'd like to own my restaurant some day,' Kayla says. 'You know, it's not too far out of reach.'

The school's cooking team - seniors Elizabeth Seino, Alison Tribe, Chelsea Moore and Sarah Scarnato - did not place but nonetheless seemed to relish their experience. The girls donned chef hats and prepared a three-course meal from scratch in one hour. Despite being watched by judges and onlookers, the girls say they felt calm throughout the competition.

'At the beginning of it, we kind of looked at each other and said, 'Is it wrong that we're not nervous because it came way too easy to us?' ' Chelsea says. 'I feel like we had the most fun.'

The girls say they created a New Orleans dish featuring an arugula salad with sautéed crawfish tails and lemon vinaigrette; a steak with braised greens and butternut squash; and a poached pear with chocolate chili sauce.

Elizabeth says she hopes to become a professional chef someday.

'It's just something I have a passion for, and I figure if I have a passion for it, why not make it career?' she says.

Alison says she enjoys the creativity cooking demands.

'You can, like, create so many different things with such simple (ingredients),' she says.

Sarah seconds that notion.

'To me, food is kind of like an edible art,' she says.

The girls say they love culinary arts at Barlow.

'It's the only class I don't skip,' Alison says with a chuckle.

The girls praise Larson for inspiring them.

'Heidi really pushed us all and just made us realize we can do something big with this,' Chelsea says.

For her part, Larson says ProStart gives students a taste of what they'll face in the real world.

'They get a lot out of it, learning to work with people in a close setting,' she says.

The school's mentor chef, Andrea Loeffler, visits the school once a week to work with its cooking students.

'They're great, and they have such a good attitude about everything,' she says.

Including a desire to make their parents proud, as is the case with Jay-R Purganan, a senior who managed both Barlow teams at the convention center. He says he hopes to open his own restaurant someday.

'My mom always wanted to own a restaurant,' he says. 'It's just one of her dreams that she always wanted to accomplish, and I want to do it for her.'