Kitchen Wars: Morenci students compete in culinary competition 2012.03.07

Written by David Green.

taylor baughBy DAVID GREEN

This is the season for basketball and wrestling tournaments, but those competitions have nothing over the excitement of a culinary arts contest.

Kitchen competition has its own thrills and spills—and ripped pastry bags.

Morenci juniors Taylor Baugh and Kira Bersoke both competed Feb. 28 in Kalamazoo at the regional SkillsUSA culinary competition, representing the Lenawee TECH Center. Both were chosen by class instructor and chef Corbin Day to represent Lenawee County at the regional event.

Taylor placed second in the commercial baking division—missing first place by a point—while Kira took fifth in the culinary arts competition. Kira just missed qualifying for the state competition next month in Lansing, but Taylor will move on to the finals.

It was anything but relaxing in the kitchen for Kira’s cooking competition. She went up against 16 other student cooks in a grueling three-hour contest to create an appetizer, an entrée and dessert.

kira beroskePracticing for the event isn’t really possible, because none of the competitors know what they will be asked to prepare until they enter the kitchen. That’s when they’re given three recipes and the ingredients. Then the clock begins ticking.

Students were asked to make a blue cheese chicken roll-up for the entrée, a salad for the appetizer and a crêpe for the dessert. 

“It is crazy in my competition. People are rushing around to do everything,” Kira said. “There are four judges that walk around and watch while you are cooking.”

It’s not just the final outcome that judges are interested in. 

“The judges really watch you during the competition to see how you cut items and how sanitary you are when you cook.”

Washing hands, changing gloves, washing cutting boards and other utensils—every step of the way comes under the judges’ scrutiny.

Pastry

Taylor had a long day behind her before she even stepped into the competition area. Students arrived in Kalamazoo at 8 a.m., but she didn’t compete until noon.

When the “start” command was given, Taylor went to her dough and started making danishes. Then she moved on to fruit scones, rolls and macaroon cookies before working on her cake.

“I was good on time while making bread, then I slowed down a little,” she said. 

She had to place a filling in the center of the cake and then decorate it in a birthday theme for someone named Nancy.

“I was just making my flowers when they said 10 minutes left,” Taylor recalls. “At this time I had all my bread out and displayed, and my cake was frosted, so the only thing I needed to do was add details and write on my cake.

“I was so scared that I wasn't going to get done. I was shaking and crying.”

She was also running and pushing her way through the other competitors. They pushed back.

“We were all freaked out by that time,” Taylor said. “I only had five minutes left. I was starting to write on the cake and the tips blew out of the [pastry] bag, all my bags ripped.”

Now she was really panicking and wondering what to do. She tried to finish writing “Best Wishes” on the cake, then displayed it and started cleaning up. That’s when she got a nosebleed.

She was glad when the event finally ended, but she was also really pleased to compete for the first time and to take home a medal.

Now she can go back to practicing until the state finals April 20 in Lansing. And that frantic ordeal from the regional competition? She’s pushed that memory aside and she’s ready to go at it again.

“Overall I had a blast and I’m very excited to do this again for state,” she said.

For Kira, she has her sights set on another culinary competition—the Pro-Start contest March 18-19 in Lansing.

This time she’ll work with a team of three other TECH Center students. There are no surprises in this contest because each team uses its own recipes to cook an appetizer, entrée and dessert in one hour.

At the SkillsUSA event, competitors could roam anywhere in the kitchen in an effort to get it all accomplished. At ProStart, the work area is partitioned off and team members must remain within their allotted space.

“ProStart will be much more difficult,” Kira said, “because it is one of the toughest cooking competitions for high schoolers.”

She wants nothing short of a state championship and the opportunity to attend the national competition in Baltimore.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016