CMC and BMHS instructors teach high school students culinary skills
By Stefanie Kilts
Can your teenager cook carré d’agneau dans sa croûte aux amandes, pommes de terre Anna, chou frisé aux pommes et fenouil and demi-glace aux cerises? Or in layman’s terms, almond crusted rack of lamb, potatoes Anna, kale with apple and fennel, and a cherry demi-glace?
Try cooking that — in addition to mushroom crepes with crème fraîche in a pinot noir reduction and a chocolate cake with orange cardamom and pistachio truffle — with just two butane burners, an eight-foot-long table and one hour of time. That’s the culinary task ahead for Battle Mountain High School students heading to the ProStart state culinary competition in Denver on March 1.
“They’ve practiced that meal over and over again,” said Heather Weems, a culinary assistant for Colorado Mountain College’s Culinary Institute, who has teamed up with BMHS to teach high school students culinary skills for the past two years.
The ProStart culinary team, led by Weems and Sharon Wible, an instructor at BMHS, is composed of five students selected from the ProStart program, a two-year program for high school juniors and seniors interested in the restaurant and food service industries.
The students will prepare two three-course meals for the competition, one for judges and one to be put on display. The entries will be judged on safety, sanitation, teamwork, cooking skills, food prep and even costing items in the recipe, Weems said. If the students’ cooking skills and presentation are ranked highest at the state level, they will move on to the national competition.
Getting a jump on a culinary career
The ProStart program is overseen by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Students who complete the program’s requirements receive a ProStart National Certificate of Achievement, putting them in the running for scholarships for colleges across the nation. In addition, students are eligible for credits through CMC’s culinary arts program, and can get a head start on courses in food safety and production.
“If you think you want to be a chef, this is a great way to get experience,” Weems said. “It’s a way to share the passion of food and let students know about alternate paths to a culinary profession, if they decide they want to pursue that.”
The instructors hold auditions for the team every year and any student who is enrolled in the ProStart program at BMHS can try out, Weems said. The students are asked to prepare omelets for the audition and judged on the same criteria as the state competition.
Once the team is formed, they begin to plan their three-course meal for the competition. Using resources from the CMC culinary library, this year’s students decided on a French-themed meal.
Wible, who has been a ProStart instructor for more than 10 years, said the program has been highly successful at the high school. The culinary team has won the state competition seven times in the past 10 years and captured the national title in 2007.
“The program keeps growing every year,” she said. “It’s a great way to expose them to a higher level of cooking and to what CMC’s Culinary Institute has to offer.”
Shared kitchen multiplies resources, strengthens partnership
This isn’t the first time the college’s Culinary Institute and BMHS have partnered up. In the fall of 2009, they jointly opened a brand new teaching kitchen at the high school, located conveniently across the street from CMC’s campus in Edwards.
The teaching kitchen has been instrumental in local culinary education. High school students, including those in the ProStart program, use it during the day and college students and community members occupy it during evenings, weekends and school breaks.
In the final weeks before the competition, the BMHS ProStart team is taking advantage of the space and using every opportunity they have to practice their French cooking skills.
“The teams that win really give it their all every day and really invest in it,” Weems said. She added that when the instructors asked the students if they wanted to practice more, they didn’t hesitate to add an extra day of practice to their weekly schedule.