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Washington High School Students Cook Off

Ruby de Luna
03/05/2004

This weekend an estimated 350 students will test their cooking and food handling skills in a statewide competition. The prize is no small potatoes: nearly 4 million dollars in scholarship. KUOW’s Ruby de Luna visited the team at Seattle’s Roosevelt High School as they practice for the upcoming challenge.

Okay, where are our team members? IF YOU THINK COOKING IS EASY, TRY MAKING A THREE-COURSE MEAL WITH JUST TWO GAS BURNERS. OH AND YOU ONLY HAVE ONE HOUR TO DO THAT. THOSE ARE THE CHALLENGES BEFORE CAROLYN GARTHWAITE AND HER TEAM… When you go to nationals it’s done in a great big hotel ballroom so there are no electricity and you can’t use anything battery operated. INSIDE ROOM 2-11 THE STUDENTS ARE WHISKING, PEELING AND CHOPPING. THEY’D LOVE TO GO TO NATIONALS, BUT FIRST THEY MUST WIN THE STATE COMPETITION. THE EVENT IS SPONSORED BY THE WASHINGTON RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION, IN PART TO ATTRACT STUDENTS WHO WANT TO MAKE A CAREER OUT OF COOKING. THAT’S THE STORY OF TAI NGUYEN. HE PLANS TO ENROLL AT WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY’S HOSPITALITY PROGRAM. NGUYEN SAYS IT’S MORE INTERESTING THAN WHAT HIS PARENTS HAD IN MIND FOR HIM—A CAREER IN ACCOUNTING… That’s what they thinking about me working, sitting in an office, computer. (Not for you?) No. I like walk around. Good thing that I walk. NGUYEN AND HIS 3 TEAMMATES HAVE BEEN PRACTICING FOR THE PAST FEW WEEKS WITH PROFESSIONAL CHEF JOHN OGBERN, THEIR ADVISER. THEIR ENTRY: A SEAFOOD SAMPLER WITH TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE, SEARED SALMON SERVED WITH POTATO CAKES AND HOLLANDAISE SAUCE. AND FOR DESSERT, WELL, MS. GARTHWAITE AND CHEF OGBERN ARE STILL WORKING ON IT. When it’s all poached then we’ll dip it in chocolate up to here… Garthwaite: Oh! (BRING UP CHOPPING SOUND) DESSERT’S THE DISCUSSION BUT IN ONE CORNER, ROOSEVELT JUNIOR KYLE PIERCE MINCES HERBS FOR ALL THE DISHES. AFTER THAT HE’LL MAKE THE SEAFOOD SALAD… This is my first competition. It’s a little nerve-wracking, yeah… AS THE PREP GUY, PIERCE IS THE ANCHOR OF THE TEAM. A YEAR AND A HALF AGO PIERCE DIDN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT COOKING. BUT HE SAYS HE ENJOYS FOOD SO MUCH THAT HE SIGNED UP FOR GARTHWAITE’S CLASS. AND HE HASN’T STOPPED COOKING SINCE… I try to make dinner for my family a couple times a week, whenever possible. (That’s nice) Yeah, I think my mom enjoys it, a little break. AS IT TURNS OUT, HIS MOM ISN’T THE ONLY ONE WHO APPRECIATES HIS COOKING… The girls love it… (chuckles) every weekend it’s like can we come to your house this weekend and have dinner? (So you’re more popular than the jocks then?) Oh yeah. Definitely. ACROSS PIERCE’S STATION, FELLOW TEAM MEMBER KRIS KONG GRATES POTATOES. UNLIKE PIERCE, KITCHEN WORK IS NOT NEW TO KONG. IN FACT HIS PARENTS OWN A RESTAURANT IN LOWER QUEEN ANNE AND HE’S WORKED THERE SINCE HE WAS NINE. HIS KITCHEN SKILLS COME IN HANDY, THOUGH KONG SAYS THERE ARE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN COOKING FOR CUSTOMERS AND FOR PROFESSIONALS WHO’LL JUDGE THEIR ENTRIES… In a restaurant it’s like quick and everybody comes in and in one shot you have to get dishes out and stuff and it’s not like you have a lot of time. But also for like competition you don’t have a lot of time but everything is more precise, kind of. AND PRECISION WILL BE KEY. THEIR MENU WILL BE JUDGED ON TECHNIQUE, PRESENTATION, AND NUTRITIONAL BALANCE. AN HOUR AND A HALF LATER CAROLYN GARTHWAITE AND HER TEAM ASSEMBLE THEIR MENU. CHEF OGBERN BEGINS HIS CRITIQUE WITH THE SEAFOOD SALAD… … it’s got nice tarragon, and the mustard’s good…. Scallops are overcooked… what is this? Pierce: That’s crab shell. Ogbern: That’s points off. Here you could’ve won the big scholarship but you had crab shell… OVERALL THE TEAM’S PLEASED WITH THEIR CREATION. IN A COUPLE OF DAYS THEY’LL FIND OUT WHETHER JUDGES LIKE IT TOO. I’M RUBY DE LUNA, KUOW NEWS.
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