Students compete for culinary honors |

Students compete for culinary honors

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Team No. 3 finishes their Tomato Napolean at Carson High School Thursday. The dish consists of Roma tomatos, feta cheese set on mixed greens and finished with a zesty lemon vinagrette.

ulinary student Jason Hayes said the essential ingredients of success in a cooking competition are practice and creativity. But his teammate warns of one to omit: the stew.

“If you make a mistake, don’t worry about it,” said Jessica Mapes, 17. “Just keep working.”

Thirteen teams of four students each competed Thursday in the National Restaurant Association’s annual Pro Start culinary competition.

Students spent the week practicing, then were given one hour to prepare an appetizer, main dish and a dessert – all from original recipes.

“It’s just total adrenaline,” explained Megan Kronenberg, 17. “You don’t even think. It’s just instinct.”

Restaurant officials from the community judged participants on sanitation, cooking procedures and degree of difficulty.

“It’s obvious they’re passionate about what they’re doing,” Don Leyba, general manager of Red’s Old 395 Bar & Grill. “Some of these people will end up being chefs, no doubt.”

Others judged the taste and presentation of the food.

“I was very impressed with what they’re doing,” said dietician Michele Cowee. “They had some great flavors, great dishes.”

Steven Caloiaro, 17, hoped his dessert of crispy wontons with peaches, pears, raspberries and blue cheese would please the palates of the judges.

“We thought creativity would help us,” he said. “We did some sugar work with it, too, which really added to the appearance. It looks and tastes good.”

As students chopped, diced, and blended, judges wandered among them, observing.

Parents watched from the sidelines.

“They’re having a good time,” said John Higgins, who came to watch his sons Patrick, 17, and J.D., 15, compete. “They’re a little bit stressed, but a little pressure is good.”

Winners from the school’s competition will advance to state finals in Las Vegas on March 6-8. State finalists will compete nationally April 22-24 in Orlando, Fla.

A list of winners from the schoolwide competition will appear on the “Whatever” page in Saturday’s Appeal. Columnist Linda Marrone will feature selected recipes in columns on the Appeal’s food page on Wednesdays.

Contact Teri Vance at or at 881-1272.