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 Teens Compete for Countywide Culinary Title

Future culinary trendsetters battled it out in the kitchen Nov. 18 at the second annual Master Chefs high school culinary competition.

High school students had one hour, two burners, and $40 worth of ingredients to woo the industry leaders judging the countywide event, which is put on by the San Diego County Office of Education. It was held at Orange Glen High School in Escondido.

Eleven teams of as many as five teens participated in the cook-off. The team for Vista High School took the top prize with a dish that included bacon-wrapped pork medallions, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. The students put a lot of thought and practice into their dish but were still pleasantly surprised to win.

“Practice finally paid off,” said Orion Araujo, one of the four members of the Vista High team.

The second prize went to Santana High School, and third went to Mission Hills High School.

Students from Escondido High, Fallbrook High, Granite Hills High, Orange Glen High, San Dieguito Academy, San Pasqual Academy, San Pasqual High School, and Valhalla High also competed, producing drool-inducing entrees that included scallops, chicken, and salmon.

The fast-paced competition gave students a chance to showcase and fine-tune the culinary skills they’ve learned in class and to be evaluated by industry leaders, helping to prepare them for a possible career in food preparation.

The lessons the students are learning as part of the competition include applied math and science concepts as well as problem-solving and critical thinking, said Yvette Davis, principal of San Pasqual Academy, which had five students participating.

“This is learning beyond the classroom,” she said.

The students said the experience also helped build self-esteem and teamwork.

Students had to create two identical dishes with five components: a protein, starch, vegetable, sauce, and garnish.

Judges include Amy DiBiase, executive chef/general manager at Tidal/Paradise Point Resort & Spa; Trey Foshee, executive chef/partner at George’s at The Cove; Carissa Giacalone, executive chef/director of culinary operations at Rancho Bernardo Inn; Marie Kelley, professor, consultant, TV Producer; Ron Oliver, chef de cuisine at The Marine Room; and Barry Schneider of Premier Food Services.

It was the second year for the countywide competition. Students from Fallbrook High School won last year.

Photo: Students from Vista High School pose with their winning dish along with their teacher, Kim Plunkett. Pictured are Orion Araujo, Steven Cazares, Tavo Updike, Luis Garcia, and Plunkett.