A group of students from Crook County High School have proven they are fine chefs. They just brought home a state culinary title and are headed to nationals.
“They put in the work and the effort and anytime you get an opportunity… I just have such great kids: the smartest, brightest group of kids I’ve seen,” said Macy Hagensee, the culinary instructor at Crook County High School.
The Crook County School District announced Wednesday that five culinary arts students won first place at the Oregon Hospitality Foundation’s Statewide Oregon ProStart Championships.
“I just really love cooking. I feel very alive when I’m cooking. I guess it’s kind of corny, but its definitely just an atmosphere I enjoy a lot. I like the competitiveness of a kitchen too, like the rushing around,” said Sawyer McDonald, a sophomore who focused on creating the desert in the competition.
Team manager Aspen Cross and fellow students Kiera Glenn, Tayah Hagensee, Sawyer McDonald, and Abbi Pack prepared a three-course gourmet meal using only two butane burners in less than one hour, the district said. Their dishes included Mediterranean Influenced Shrimp, Pan-Seared Pork Tenderloin Medallions, and a Silky Chocolate Mousse for dessert.
Without running water and electricity, the team had to get creative. The event only allowing them two butane burners to cook on.
“The hardest part was probably, I had to make two sauces in a mortar and pestle, and it was hard because my arms started to get tired,” said Pack, a sophomore in charge of the appetizer.
Twelve teams from 10 high schools competed in this year’s event.
“As the manager, I had the chance to look at the other competitors, and I felt our team worked really well together. One of the judges said we ran a well-oiled machine. I’ve danced all my life and felt this competition was so unique, but I had a great time, and I’m so proud of my teammates,” Cross said in a statement.
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And just like with sports, making a championship team means everyone being all-in and even putting in some extra work. The district said Culinary Arts Instructor Macy Hagensee noted how the team practiced late after school.
“If you get the right students together who are willing to listen and pay attention to details, then really great things can happen,” Hagensee said in a statement. “By the third practice, we were already making our time, so it allowed us to figure out ways to tweak and perfect our dishes. I’m looking forward to seeing how they perform at nationals.”
The nationals will be May 2-4 in Washington, D.C.
“We all just kind of pulled the team together for fun,” said Pack. “We all just like to cook and so we just thought, ‘hey we’ll give it a shot. It’ll look good on a college resume.'”
In addition to the first place win, Maddy Vandewalker was named the Oregon ProStart Mentor of the year for helping to prepare the team. The district says she’s a 2018 graduate of CCHS and competed at ProStart in 2017 and 2018. She’s now a Special Education Instructional Assistant at Crook County High School.
Sam Barlow High School in Gresham took second and Willamette High School in Eugene took third.
Here’s another example of how creative the CCHS culinary arts students are. They recently created soups, pasta dishes, tacos, and breakfast meals with hash browns made out of Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs). Hagensee, who is a veteran, worked with recruiters from the National Guard to bring in the MREs. Below is an image of just one of their MRE dishes.