Students prepare for national culinary contest

Hagar Gov-Ari

Gearing up for competition: Junior Mallory Barnes practices rolling dough. She works many hours each day preparing for the national culinary competition taking place in Kansas City this June. Photo by Aniqa Rahman

Though the school year is almost over, two nationally recognized Culinary Arts students at the Columbia Area Career Center have been baking and cooking more than ever in preparation for their upcoming challenge.

After placing first in state, junior Mallory Barnes and senior Will Kinney will proceed to the national competition held in Kansas City, Mo. on June 16. The SkillsUSA competition will feature 50 students, one from each state, and award the winner with a generous scholarship to the culinary school of their choice.

Getting to state was a long and challenging journey for Barnes and Kinney; they contended in school, district and state competitions before the opportunity to go to nationals even arose.

“After state was over, I was really excited to be able to have a chance at nationals,” Barnes said. “That was my goal from the beginning, and I’m glad that I will get a chance to compete with so many great bakers.”

Nationals, which will result in a weeklong trip for the competitors, will present a new set of challenges that the students are diligently preparing for. The judges will watch and evaluate them closely for their cleanliness, organization skills and time management techniques that are key to succeeding in the culinary business.

“Last year I finished within the top 10 in the nation,” Kinney said. “I am pushing myself harder to place even higher. I want to go into the culinary industry, and this would really put me in a good position to do so.”

The competition itself consists of a judging period in categories that the young chefs must excel in.

In the culinary round, they must show their ability to accurately do knife cuts, cut chickens, prepare salads and entrées, soups and, this year specifically, make eggs benedict.

In the baking round, they must shine in their preparation of various types of pastries, including single knot rolls, braided loaves, pan loaves, danishes and pie shells, along with many others.

The chef instructors of the two competitors both agree that winning nationals is a tremendous honor, and will open the opportunity to go to WorldSkills, the international competition held in Leipzig, Germany.

If either Barnes or Kinney makes it to WorldSkills, he or she will compete with the best of the best from over 30 countries around the world for the championship in the culinary division.

Even if the two don’t go on to WorldSkills, just participating in SkillsUSA will give them a chance to gain responsibility and experience a competitive atmosphere.

The CACC instructors, Chefs Brook Harlan and Carri Risner have been putting great time and effort in instilling students with the necessary characteristics that it takes to be national champions, leaving no room for error. Kinney and Barnes spend hours a day training for this event; the two even took time out of their spring breaks to work on their skills.

“These students are gaining real world experience in learning the responsibility of quality work and working hard to achieve a goal,” Harlan said, “and that’s what makes our students so great.”

Harlan has taken CACC culinary students to nationals who have placed in the top five in the last seven years. This year, he aspires to do the same with Kinney and Barnes, along with Risner, who is the Baking and Pastry instructor and also coaches the two state champions.

“My part [in going to nationals] is to help, support and guide Mallory,” Risner said. “I absolutely think she has a good chance at winning, and I wish them both the best of luck.”

By Hagar Gov-Ari