They’Re Really Cooking Now!

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Culinary students Melissa Hill (left), Tanner Fleming and Megan Ploughe.

Two Payson students won a silver medal at a July national cooking competition in Chicago.

Payson High School juniors Melissa Hill and Megan Ploughe worked with a Tucson culinary arts student from Flowing Wells High, Tanner Fleming, and wowed the judges at the Family, Careers and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) competition at Kendall College, a culinary arts college in Chicago, Ill.

The journey began in April when Payson High Culinary Arts students Shoshanah Wright, along with Hill and Ploughe won the state culinary arts competition and were invited to represent Arizona at the National FCCLA Conference in Chicago.

Only Hill and Ploughe could attend, and so they were matched up with Fleming, who finished next in line at the state competition.

The three students practiced in the Valley during June with chefs from Le Cordon Bleu College (formerly Scottsdale Culinary Institute) and The Art Institute of Phoenix.

Once in Chicago, the local team competed in the first heat of the day. After practicing three menus and not knowing which would be given, the team pre-arranged for one to make the salad/soup, the second to prepare the main dish, the third to make the dessert, leaving the side dish to whomever had any extra time.

With 30 minutes to create a time management plan, obtain their ingredients, and set up their work stations, Arizona’s team created a menu of a tomato and asparagus salad with mozzarella cheese, Maxwell Street-style pork chops served with rosti potatoes and a fresh fruit tart.

The students had 60 minutes to prepare the food and present it to the judges. Along the way, the students were judged on their sanitation, safety, knife skills, teamwork, appearance, and overall cooking skills.

The three students felt they gave a strong showing, but acknowledged a few areas for improvement.

Two days later at the recognition session, the Arizona team was presented with a silver medal for their performance.

Typically the Arizona culinary teams in the past have not performed this well. Payson should be proud of such a strong showing, especially being sophomores in high school. Watch out for them in the future!

Thanks goes to the Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology and Credit for Kids donations to the culinary arts fund for helping the team travel to Chicago to attend this year’s competition.

Also, thanks should go to both Payson Rotary organizations (morning and lunch) for helping the girls with their food expenses.

Payson once again was there to support their youth.

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