High School Pro-Start Competition Judging Colorado
Well the interview was over and for the first time I would be a kitchen
judge for the Pro-Start High School Culinary Competition. My assignment
would be the kitchen and I would be paired with long time Master Chef
Stuart Harrison, recently returning to the Grand Junction area after a 7
year stint as EC in New Mexico for a hospital.
Stuart was one of the people that helped start the Colorado Culinary
Academy years ago. It was good to talk with someone that was around and
helped with the formation of our local Culinary Arts School.
Well 7:30 AM I am on my way to the judges meeting for the event. Meet
with Stuart to get a game plan. He asks me what I want to do, I
explained this is my first event so I really want to be guided through
how to go about doing this judging job. Stuart teases me about the fact
when he started judging there was only three mothers and some kids added
a couple more mothers later on. Then tells me OK lets get you started on
something you are going to love to do!
The Pro-Start competitions are headed up by the Restaurant Association.
We go over the rules together and gather up a game plan. The job of this
competition is to get the students ready for the state competition in
two months. We ask a few questions of the head of judges Chef Jon St.
Peter who is the lead Chef instructor for the Colorado Culinary Academy.
Stuart wishes to handle more of the safety and sanitation since that is
one of his focuses running the hospital food and beverage. I will handle
prep and technique critique. We have six four person teams entered into
the competition. They will start in 15 minute intervals and will have 15
minutes Mise en place, 60 minutes cooking prep time and a 10 minute
plating window. Followed immediately by a 30 minute clean up window.
The first thing I notice is the students are very nervous about the
competition. I ask Stuart if it is ok to talk with the students and try
to calm them down a little. He nods. (He seems to do a lot of
communication by nodding) I gather up a group of the first two teams and
start talking. First we expect you to check your equipment before you
get started, we expect you to follow all safety and sanitation methods,
we expect you to have all your ice, water and sterilizer at the station
before you finish Mise en place, as with the state competition, after
the Mise en place window closes you have no access to any other area but
your workstation. Down through the rules I go, everyone nodding yes to
the rules, end of it. Now time for the relax talk.
Ok folks you have made it this far because you like this industry and
you like to cook. You must be competent to an extent because you
teacher recommend your team come here. So some words of advice from
Master Chef Stuart and myself. If you lose track of something and it
burns up, if you dump something over your work station, if you screw up
a prep, if it does not turn out the way you had hoped, if you get
yourself DQd or if you actually forgot something during Mise en place.
Don't worry about it. The sun will rise tomorrow, you will sit up and
eat the next day, we no longer flog the contestants that don't place in
the top three. The policy against selling the organs off of the lowest
two teams was rescinded. Folks the end of the world is not coming if this
does not go correctly, life will go on. So get in there and do what you
practiced, have fun doing it, talk to each other a lot and we will see
you on the other side of this 75 minutes.
Couple of questions for you. Chef Stuart has offered the two of us to
meet with each team after the event and take you through our notes. Do
you want to do that? (YES)
We are allowed to talk with you during the event, would you like us to
or do you want us to just judge and not speak? (Talk with us)
Last, both Stuart's and my own coat have buttons just like yours, don't
get to worked up just because Stuart cooked for Jesus! (Stuart is
nodding in agreement.)
We planned it ahead in the opening meeting. Stuart told me that hardest
part of High School Competitions is to get the students to relax. Make
it like your own kitchen, joke a little, let them know we are human and
sort of normal.
Part two (Cooking the menu) to follow shortly:
Til we talk again, think about how you can help the younger wanting to
enter this industry and act on it!
Chef Bob Ballantyne
The Cowboy and The Rose Catering
Grand Junction, Colorado, USA