Patriot chefs win state tourney

March 23, 2009

By Jim Feehan

A team from Liberty High School knows a thing or two about running a restaurant.

A four-member team from Liberty won the restaurant management event at the statewide Boyd Coffee ProStart Invitational March 8. By winning the state event, the team advances to the national invitational April 24-26 in San Diego.

“This is just awesome for the team to go to the national invitational,” said Zarah Matsuda, the team’s coach.

Students from 22 high schools across the state participated in the event sponsored by the Washington Restaurant Association Education Foundation. The event was held at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia.

“Watching these students compete really gives you a look into the future of our restaurants,” said Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Restaurant Association.

ProStart is a culinary curriculum that the Washington Restaurant Association sponsors in about 50 high schools throughout the state.

The ProStart program was developed by the National Restaurant Association. 

A restaurant can have great food, but the establishment could close for lack of business moxie, said Matsuda, a sous chef at the Calcutta Grill restaurant at The Golf Course at Newcastle.

Seniors Gabrielle McGrew, Christine Carlson and Nicole Newbury, along with sophomore Jessica Warren, make up the winning management team bound for San Diego.

The restaurant-management event involved a quiz about management vocabulary and concepts, and coming up with a solution in a scenario a restaurant might face, Matsuda said. 

“They were professional and creative in their solutions,” she said. “The judges were very impressed and let them know on multiple occasions.”

Preparing for nationals, team members will continue to study roughly 1,200 restaurant industry words and terms. The students will also meet with local restaurant managers to discuss their management approaches to the most common worst-case scenarios, Matsuda said.

“All it takes is a couple of bad complaints about your restaurant or, worse yet, food poisoning. That can ruin you,” she said.

A team from Newport High School came in second in the restaurant management competition, followed by a squad from Chief Leschi High School, of Puyallup.

Liberty’s culinary team of Marissa Harrell, Emily Petryk, Maile Mittag and Anna Carlson received high marks from the judges for its teamwork, communication and cleanliness, Matsuda said.

The team’s main course consisted of pan-seared salmon, potato celery root hash, spring peas, herb salad and lemon beurre blanc. Dessert included vanilla-chocolate mousse, white chocolate cup and hazelnut tuile.

Liberty was one of two teams to heat its entrée plates and the only team to bring in a whole fish and filet it, Matsuda said.

“The girls are very pleased with their performance and learned a lot from it,” she said.  “For a couple of them, competing was the determining factor in choosing a career in culinary arts.”

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