KHS students win state ProStart

KHS students win state ProStart; will miss out on nationals
Posted on 04/10/2020
Culinary Arts WinnersCONWAY — The Mount Washington Valley Career and Technical Center's young top young chefs captured first place March 10 at the 10th annual New Hampshire ProStart State Invitational competition at the Holiday Inn in Concord.

It marked the first time KHS, which competed against seven teams from across the state, has won the title, having finished second and third in the past.

They created a menu featuring an appetizer of crispy calamari and lemon served with harissa aioli and chermoula oil; an entree of Moroccan rubbed rack of lamb with pomegranate reduction, lemon-cilantro vinaigrette tossed with rainbow fingerling potatoes and sauteed vegetable hash; and a dessert of vanilla bean panna cotta, served with grapefruit and brown sugar caramel and topped with spiced pistachios.

“This is the first time our school has won first place in ProStart, and it is such a huge achievement,” said Chef Alison Bickford, who oversees the culinary program at Kennett.

“The team has been meeting since September, and since January we had been practicing two to three times weekly. I have been awestruck at the work ethic and commitment these young chefs have demonstrated,” she said.

Taking top honors were Tristan Hansen, Sierra McManus, Jaime Fulton, Riley Gavett and Kaylee Brown-Hiscox, who managed the team.

“It was a huge triumph, and I feel so bad that the kids didn't get to go to Nationals,” Bickford said March 31.

“In fact, they didn't get much recognition at all. It seemed like as soon as we got back from the competition, the COVID-19 situation took over. Regionals were canceled. The students were going to compete (April 3-4) with all of the New England teams in Concord," she said.

“For nationals, the students were going to have a paid-for trip to Washington DC May 5-11. We found out last week that Nationals have been canceled and will not be rescheduled. This is so sad.”

KHS also won another award.

“The whole ProStart team won the best knife skills award, but kudos to Riley Gavett for his accuracy of cuts,” Bickford said. “I think he sealed the deal.”

Teams had to prepare a three-course meal in 60 minutes using no running water, refrigerators, mixers, ovens or electricity, Bickford said.

“The team is allowed two butane burners and all items have to be portion, packed and stored at the proper temperatures. Each component of the menu has to meet a specific weight measurement and there's a huge food costing aspect to the event with a book of menus and costing that is submitted. We got 100 percent on our costing book," she said.

Virginia Schrader, director of the MWVCTC, who attended the competition, said: “There is no room for error as the teams are evaluated on taste, skill, teamwork, safety and sanitation. Our student chefs created a fabulous meal.”

She continued: "This is a very, very difficult competition. I'm so proud of these kids."

Aime Pariseau of the New Hampshire and Restaurant Association explained:

"They’re judged on teamwork, knife skills, communication and, of course, their tasting of their plates."

Pariseau said the student chefs come up with their menus to present to the judges — a panel of 13 people from Maine, South Carolina and the Granite State.

“We are very fortunate to have executive level and ACF certified chefs,” said Pariseau. “All of which said, the caliber of the menus and the execution by our ProStart students was outstanding.”

While Kennett took top honors, Pinkerton Academy was runner-up, and White Mountains Regional came in third.

In the management category, Pinkerton Academy took first with Kennett placing second.

ProStart management students for Kennett were Katherine Dewhurst and Jaden Judge.

“Management students come up with a restaurant or food truck business concept, and work on all aspects of restaurant design and management such as doing research for demographics and marketing, floor layout/plan, the menu and food cost,” Bickford explained.

Judge also won the "most creative" award.

Competing students do receive a variety of scholarships from Great Bay Community College, Lakes Region Community College, NHTI and White Mountains Community College as well as Johnson & Wales University and the Culinary Institute of America.

“All students from both (MWVCTC) teams won multiple scholarships to culinary and management schools across the nation,” Bickford said.

While disappointed the Eagles won’t be able to match culinary skills with others from around the country, Bickford was disappointed for the team’s lone senior.

“Kaylee Brown has done a phenomenal job managing her team,” Bickford said. “This was her last chance to compete, to go to Nationals.

"We all understand that this is just an unforeseeable circumstance and that we are all doing the right thing, but it is sad," she said. "My hope is if school reconvenes this year that possibly we can fundraise enough so we can do something to celebrate this much-deserved accomplishment.”

The sixth annual Feast of the Valley, which had been scheduled for March 27, and has routinely drawn 175-plus local residents, had to be postponed.

Bickford and Schrader hope that the event can still happen.

“I really hope we return to school with enough time to reschedule our Feast of the Valley dinner. We were looking forward to presenting a food truck festival,” Bickford said.
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