An integral member of Carson High School's state championship culinary arts team, Troy Szczotka, 18, will not be allowed to participate in the national competition after he was arrested Wednesday on felony graffiti charges.
Szczotka, who was recognized for his skill in creating a three-dimensional chocolate butterfly, is charged in the defacing of Carson Middle School and two Carson City businesses.
"I'm deeply concerned about tagging throughout our school district and throughout our community, as I think everyone is," said Carson City School District Superintendent Mary Pierczynski. "If it was a student (behind it), then we are saddened by the whole situation."
Carson High School culinary teammate Kelly Taylor will build the butterfly, which tops the champagne mousse of the team's three-course meal. The menu also includes an appetizer of poached salmon and an entree of seared ostrich tenderloin. Szczotka has given up a chance for a full scholarship to Johnson & Wales University and the Culinary Institute of America, as has a second student on the culinary team, a 17-year-old male, who has not yet been charged.
All competing culinary students had signed the school's right-to-represent agreement, which states that students participating in activities in public are representatives of the school and can be removed for failing to meet that obligation.
"Any infraction is automatic dismissal," said culinary teacher Penny Reynolds. "It's the same as with any sports team. Any team that represents the school has the same (policy)."
The two males took first place with Taylor and teammate Jennifer DeRosa at the hot foods competition in Las Vegas in late March. It was the first top win ever for the school in hot foods. A second CHS team, competing in culinary management, took third.
Moving permanently onto the team with Taylor and DeRosa are alternate Chris Wear, and Rachel Neitzke, who was on the management team during state. Culinary management team member Whitney Hoote becomes the alternate.
"The kids who were on the management team have stepped up," Reynolds said.
The five met before school about 6 a.m. Wednesday to practice the three-course meal. They will spend all of spring break perfecting their dishes for the national culinary competition scheduled April 29-May 4 in Charlotte, N.C.
"We're going to be bigger and stronger than before," Reynolds said. "And that's the attitude of the kids, too. We're going to win the nationals."
Reynolds said that without the third-place win by culinary management at state, the hot foods team would be unable to compete at nationals.
"Because the kids were on the management team, they were all part of the same team," Reynolds said. "If we had not had that team in Vegas place, we would not be going."
The culinary team remains $2,000 away from its fundraising goal. More than $4,000 has been raised in past weeks to defray the costs of airfare, uniforms and hotels. To donate, call Reynolds at 283-1771.
• Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at email@example.com