MARSHALL - More than a dozen Worthington High School students whipped up some sweet creations during the April 2 Schwan’s Culinary Skills Challenge at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
Students in the Family and Consumer Science advanced foods class competed in a variety of cooking skills, including baking science, cake decorating, fondant decorating, food design, knife cuts, menu design, and napkin folding and place setting.
Ziare Hernandez and Andrea Castillo earned first place in fondant cake decorating and menu design, respectively.
The following students earned second place: Lawla Say, food design; Vanessa Olivares, place setting/napkin folding; and Tommy Thonesavnh, knife cuts.
Earning third were Allen Souksawan, knife cuts; and Paola Sharka, place setting/napkin folding.
Many of the categories required students to get creative in the kitchen.
For the place setting and napkin setting category, students were to set a table with a children’s theme.
Olivares folded a napkin in the shape of a dress for a princess birthday theme. Sharka had a “Paw Patrol” theme based on an animated kids’ television show. Competitor Anthony Euceda folded his napkin in the shape of a bat for a Batman-themed table. Competitors were also required to print directions and do a live demonstration of their napkin fold so it could be emulated.
The food design category offered free reign to the student’s creativity.
Say’s creation was made of cut strawberries and was presented in rose formation.
“I wanted to do something simple but catching to the eyes,” Say said, adding that the hands-on activity allowed her to be artistic.
Another competition required an artistic eye, as a plain cake was synonymous with a blank canvas.
Alberto Lara designed an Easter-themed cake, complete with a cross, green grass, flowers and Easter eggs.
“You had an hour to add the frosting,” he said.
Hernandez also decorated a cake, but using fondant.
She not only decorated with it, but went “above and beyond” and made the icing from scratch, said WHS Family and Consumer Science Teacher Bonnie Bents.
The menu design competition also called for artistic concepts, as student competitors were required to create a season-themed menus.
Not only did students hand select recipes to fit the theme, they were tasked with designing a readable, aesthetically pleasing menu.
Castillo designed her first-place menu based on her favorite season, spring. The name of her mock restaurant was Que Approeche.
“In Spanish, that means ‘enjoy your food,” she said.
A floral design was consistent on each page, and included many items she’d choose herself if she were at a restaurant. She hopes maybe her menu design experience might come in handy one day.
“I feel like a dream would be to start a restaurant with my mom, because she would enjoy it,” she said.
Nancy Morales and Jonathon Keodouangsy teamed up to create their fall-themed menu for restaurant, The Boxcar.
“It was a little diner,” Morales said about their vision for the restaurant.
“It was a fun experience,” Keodouangsy added.
The baking science duo of Kaitlyn Junker and Audra Eshelman were tasked with manipulating a basic chocolate chip recipe into a unique treat.
To determine what they wanted to submit for the contest, they experimented with variations of the cookie. They tasted a variation without eggs and another with oatmeal. Their tastebuds weren’t particularly excited until they added peanut butter chips and white chocolate chips.
“We didn’t place, but it’s OK - the cookies were good,” Eshelman said.
Thonesavanh and Souksawan were given a potato and used it to demonstrate their proficiency in two of the four main knife cuts. The kicker? They randomly selected their two cuts out of a hat.
Although neither got the two they were most comfortable with, they agreed that participating in the competition taught them a good life skill.
As part of the competition, students also experienced a variety of workshops and demonstrations by professional chefs.