bon app�©tit

bon app�?©tit VHS students compete to
prepare best gourmet dishes By David Lias
Plain Talk The aromas wafting through the air in the Vermillion High School commons early Thursday instantly signaled that something other than your common school lunch was being prepared that day. Three teams of Vermillion High School students were busy concocting haute cuisine of the day as they took part in the high school's ProStart program, sponsored by the National Restaurant Association, on March 5. The students were working under a high pressure, competitive atmosphere. Three teams competed, and technically, only two winning teams would be able to continue on to the state competition being held in Mitchell on March 24. What the student chefs didn't know, however, was that Ilene Lerseth, family consumer science teacher, planned to blend the non-winning members of one team with the two winning teams, so that all of the participants could serve either as team members or alternates in the state competition. The young chefs had to work fast. They only had one hour to prepare a meal consisting of a starter (soup or salad), the main course (starch, protein and vegetable) and a dessert. The students had to bring all of their supplies and utensils with them, and were not able to leave their stations once the competition began. No electrical or battery operated appliances were allowed, and the students could cook with two butane burners. Up to four students could be on a team, with one alternate allowed. Lerseth notes that for the participants to be successful, they had to have background in preparation of each dish. They couldn't simply specialize to master one of the activities required. "They can't say, 'okay, you do the julienne, you do the mincing,' and they can't say they are going to be an expert at this," she said. "They have to do all sorts of cutting and other common practices related to food preparation, and some of my kids are really good with a  knife. They actually have a winner at state for the knife skills portion of the contest, and they are going to be given a $50 knife." Students at  the state competition will vy for three trophies: one for first place, one for second place, and one for the judge's award. "The judges vote on the one they enjoyed watching cook the most," Lerseth said. "I came home with two (of those trophies) last year. I came home with second place and the judges award. I didn't get first place; the team from Brookings got first and they went out to California to compete." Should one of Vermillion's teams garner the first place trophy this year, they will represent South Dakota at the National ProStart Invitational in California this April. "Last year, I brought two teams and I came home with two trophies, so I was happy," Lerseth said. The judges for the local competition were Andy Anderson from Hy-Vee, Jim Waters from Jones' Food Store, Michele Mechling from the Coffee Shop Gallery, Eugene Fuller from Minerva's, Shannon Fairholm, a member of the Vermillion School Board and a self-described "foodie," and Lea Gustad, the high school vocational counselor. Besides taste and appearance of the finished product, students were judged on safety and sanitation, team appearance, organization, cooking procedures, and proper use of tools and equipment. At the state competition, students will additionally compete in a management portion that tests their knowledge of culinary material and ability to communicate how to deal in a crisis situation in a restaurant case study. The South Dakota Retail Association will host the state competition in Mitchell with members of the association acting as judges for the event. This will be the second annual competition to be held at the Mitchell Culinary Institute. Team one, made up of Greg Anderson, Bri Brinkman, Molly LeCates and Erica Johnson, concentrated on preparing lamb as their main dish. Their starter was a poached pear bleu cheese salad with greens. The main course was herb encrusted lamb rib with spinach cheese pasta rollups and a tomato coulis. For dessert, they prepared pistachio crisp and a grape compote. Team 2, consisting of Shalita Bartlett, Lorraine Walsh and Steve Runyon, concentrated on pork. Their starter dish was tomato/pepper/goat stack with greens, followed by a main course of stuffed pork roulade, garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed asparagus. For dessert, they prepared a strawberry tortilla rollup. Derek Iverson, Crystal Robison and Justin Maunu of team three served fish as their main course. Their starter dish was egg drop soup. Their main course was fish enpapiotte with carrots and leeks. For dessert, they served sautéed pineapple in rum sauce. "It takes a lot to do all of this," Lerseth said. "All of these young people have worked hard practicing, and getting organized for this event."

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