McNary culinary team cooks the competition 

The McNary Culinary team enjoying their win. Team members from left include: Elizabeth Williams, Indiana Gauthier, Caleb Manning, Emma Rygh and Maya Orlov

Masterchef? No, McNary chef. 

On March 18, the McNary High School culinary team competed and won first place in the statewide ProStart culinary competition held at the Salem Convention Center. 

The McNary team, which won first place in their competition, competed with the Career Technical Education Center (CTEC) management team who also won first place in their respective competition. 

The McNary team is composed of McNary culinary teacher and coach Wendy Bennet and chefs: seniors Maya Orlov and Elizabeth Williams and juniors Indiana Gauthier, Caleb Manning and Emma Rygh. 

ProStart, a national program that develops the future hospitality industry workforce, hosts competitions such as these to give students the chance to show what they can do in the kitchen. 

According to Oregon Hospitality Foundation director and ProStart Manager Courtney Smith, 13 teams competed at the invite-only tournament, with eight culinary teams and five managerial teams from around Oregon. 

The competition for the culinary team revolved around producing a refined, cohesive dish with an appetizer, entree and dessert. 

Culinary teams were given an eight foot long table, a portable gas burner and basic cooking equipment. They then had one hour to compose their entire menu. 

The McNary team’s winning dish was composed of an appetizer of a fried steelhead cake on top of a bed of shaved fennel salad with arugula sprouts and topped with a lemon-garlic vinaigrette. 

The entree was composed of a grilled porkchop on wild rice pilaf, partnered with squash and sautéed mushrooms and topped with an apple-onion chutney and pancetta. 

Finally, the dessert was a chocolate hazelnut crust topped with a cherry sauce, chocolate mousse and candied hazelnuts. 

Grading criteria is strict with student chef Gauthier describing how they are basically graded from the moment that they walk onto the competition floor. 

Other grading criteria include, kitchen cleanliness, team uniformity and cleanliness, presentation of the dishes as well as the seasoning and flavor. 

According to Bennet, judges at the competition found it tough to find critiques to give, although this has not stopped the dedicated team from coming in to practice, even during spring break, to ensure the few issues they did have are worked on. 

“We are going to Baltimore to win,” Bennet stated. 

For winning on the 18th, students each received: a trip to the National ProStart competition as Oregon’s representatives, a set of Henckels Knives with a travel roll, a renewable $8,000 scholarship from the Culinary Institute of Virginia, a renewable $2,000 scholarship from the Culinary Institute of America, a swag bag from the United States Coast Guard as well as gold medal and a near Stanley-cup sized trophy. 

For the national competition, held April 26 – 28 in Baltimore Md., the McNary and Salem CTEC teams will be competing against the best teams across all 50 states including Puerto Rico and Washington D.C., with nearly 400 students in total competing. 

Similar to the state competition, national prizes include: generous educational scholarships to help further their careers in the restaurant and food service industry. In past years, around $200,000 in scholarships were awarded to winning students, according to Smith. 

The McNary culinary team with McNary culinary teacher and team coach Wendy Bennet
Chefs Williams (left) and Manning (righ) as they prepare their dishes during the March 18th competition
The culinary team getting a quick lesson on tempered chocolate from executive chef from the American Culinary Federation Glenn Dettwiler.
The culinary team looks on during a Spring break practice session
The team trophy won from the ProStart culinary competition

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-105

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