Culinary Students Earn Honors, Scholarships

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Payson High School students Melissa Hill, Shoshanah Wright and Megan Ploughe stand with the food they prepared during a recent culinary arts competition.

The past few months, students from Payson High’s Culinary Arts program have been donning professional white gear, repeatedly practicing their professional knife cuts and cooking techniques, writing up firing charts, and competing for scholarship dollars, medals of accomplishments, plus national recognition.

Payson should be proud of these student chefs and will be seeing more of them in the future.

Starting in February, seniors Justin Richardson and Brett Goodwin, along with junior Leticia Martinez, participated in the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program preliminary statewide competition.

The trio prepared French omelets and a tomato and cucumber salad. After hours of practice and over 70 participants from across the state, Richardson was selected to advance to the finals in March. He not only shined with his skills, but he returned home with a $14,000 scholarship for the Arizona Culinary Institute in Scottsdale.

Richardson made a tough decision to stay in state for his training. He was inspired by his mentor chef Glen Humphrey, the placement director and chef of ACI, and decided to stay closer to home.

Just last year, then-senior Talia Schall won the same scholarship. She just finished six months culinary arts training at ACI and is currently interning with Executive Chef and Food Network TV star Beau MacMillan at the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley as a pantry chef.

Richardson, we are sure, will follow her footsteps in landing a superior chef position in Arizona as well.

In March, Brett Goodwin was notified that he was a finalist in the “Best Teen Chef” competition from the International Culinary Art Institute of Phoenix. Goodwin submitted a menu and recipes from his American Culinary Federation (ACF) professional competition this fall that won him a spot at the Arizona finals. Goodwin mastered a menu in 10 days that the Art Institute distributed, earning a bronze medal for his performance. Goodwin enrolled at the Phoenix campus and will begin his formal post-secondary training this July.

Also in March, six first-year culinary students competed in a statewide Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) contest. Earlier, they traveled to St. Johns High School for a regional meeting.

The teams learned the meaning of competition. Judges critiqued their performances strongly, giving the teams determination to excel at the state competition.

Over spring break, the girls repeatedly practiced the three menus distributed. The teams had to be ready to prepare any of the three, three-course menus in one hour.

On the final day, one team member was ill and her teammates weren’t given any slack for her absence. Ultimately, senior Claudia Mares and sophomore Nicole Devaney came home with bronze medals while sophomores Shoshanah Wright, Megan Ploughe and Melissa Hill returned with silver statewide medals.

The surprise of the conference was that the silver medal winners were the highest scoring competitors in the extremely tough statewide competition — judges awarded no gold medals. Students each earned $5,000 scholarships to Scottsdale Culinary Institute, $1,000 scholarships to Johnson and Wales University, plus national contender recognition at the national FCCLA Leadership Conference this July in Chicago, Ill.

So you could say, Payson High has some great up and coming chefs. Today’s home economics classroom has materialized into a superior culinary arts training site that the community should be proud of.

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