When Andrea Davis, 18, went to Las Vegas for this year’s ProStart culinary competition, she had one purpose.
“I had no reason to go down this year unless I won,” she said. “We boycotted last year, and we wanted to go back and show them we actually knew what we were doing.”
The Carson High School culinary arts team sat out of last year’s competition as a protest against the lack of funding it receives from the Nevada Restaurant Association and the Carson City School District. It was also a call on contest organizers to rotate the contest — which has an equal number of teams from both ends of the state — from north to south each year.
Although no substantive changes came from the boycott, teacher Penny Reynolds, said she decided to return this year at the request of seniors Davis and Genoa Donaldson, 17.
“They begged (chef adviser) Clint (Jolly) and I to do it this year, so we did,” she said.
And if the students were looking to make an impression, they did. They took gold in the hot foods competition — the school’s 10th first place finish in the contest’s 12-year history. Each of the five students on the team came home with $21,000 in scholarship money.
“It’s a huge deal,” Davis said. “I wouldn’t be able to go to college without scholarships.”
Davis was named Student of the Year and Donaldson was a finalist for the same designation. Reynolds received the Teacher of the Year distinction.
“We cleaned house,” Reynolds said. “I’m still in this daze.”
Max DeMar, 16, competed for the first time this year as a sophomore.
“We knew we were going to do good, but I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I didn’t know we were going to win until we won.”
The team prepared a scallop ceviche as an appetizer with a crusted chicken breast with a fresh tomato herb sauce entrée and a chocolate trio for dessert.
“I had a feeling we were going to nail the dessert,” said sophomore Christian Kivi, 16. “I think that’s where we racked up all of our points.”
The dishes are prepared with two propane burners only, no running water and no electricity. Students must also demonstrate proficiency in cutting vegetables into different styles and removing bones from a chicken.
“It’s just really fun,” said Dakota Martinez, 15. “The experience of competing was cool.”
The team is now working on raising money to attend the national ProStart competition May 3-5 in Minneapolis.
Both seniors plan to continue their culinary pursuits and Johnson & Wales University.
“I just love the thrill in the kitchen,” Donaldson said. “You get such enjoyment from the people who taste your food.”