New Britain City Journal

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Students Part of ProStart Invitational

On Friday Feb. 27 a team of five students from New Britain High, competed in the Connecticut ProStart Invitational held at Gateway Community College. This is an annual, highly challenging culinary competition that is run by the National Restaurant Association and judged by a group of professional chefs. The students, Voshon Ashman, Mario Xiloj, Juan Quinones, Genesis Santiago, and Dylon Flores, are enrolled in the ProStart Culinary program at New Britain High, taught by Family and Consumer Sciences teacher and Registered Dietitian, Eleanor Goldman.

The New Britain students were both thrilled and disappointed when they won second place. They received trophies and generous scholarship offers to a variety of excellent culinary programs such as Johnson and Wales and the Culinary Institute of America. Several of the students intend to go to culinary school after they graduate.

The competition started with the students being judged on their knife skills. They julienned and diced vegetables, and neatly boned whole chickens in just a few minutes.

Next, each team was given one hour to produce a delicious, gourmet three-course meal. They were forbidden from using electrical or battery-operated equipment. All cooking had to be done on two butane burners.

According to their teacher, the students stayed after school for 2-3 hours, several times a week for months, training for the competition. Sometimes the students also met with chef-mentor, Brandon Smith, from the Max Restaurant Group, who gave the students invaluable feedback and advice.

The team spent months perfecting their menu. They started with recipes that they found online, and then experimented until, ultimately, the recipes became the students’ creations.

Their finished menu included walnut apricot, prosciutto, and goat cheese crostinis, stuffed chicken with a mustard sauce, green beans, sweet potato bacon hash, and for dessert, a mouth-watering homemade lemon coconut ice cream, topped with banana strawberry sauce and freshly whipped cream.

The students all agree that the competition was way more work than they had anticipated, but it was also much more fun and exciting. They had never cooked in front of an audience and a group of judges, everyone watching the students’ every move.

This took a lot of guts. The judges talked with the students as they cooked, quizzing them on technique, and sometimes giving them unexpected directions. Audience members, who often stood only a couple feet from the cooks, discussed (and sometimes criticized) the students. The New Britain team endeavored with professionalism and confidence, completing their delicious meal as planned, plated expertly and ready for the judges’ taste test.