Regional culinary arts competition sets standard for state finals

Peter Volkmann, a senior at Grand Junction High School, chops garlic during the Pro Start Culinary Arts Competition Friday morning.

The 9th annual Pro Start Culinary Arts Competition began Friday morning at Western Colorado Community College.

The “Iron Chef”-style competition is for regional high school students, from as far away as Durango, to compete for a spot in the state finals. The four-member teams have exactly one hour to prepare a three-course meal — including a salad or soup, a protein as a main course, and a dessert.

While cooking happens, several judges watch to determine how the team works together, their use of time, cleanliness and communication. Their final presentation is judged not only on taste, but on food temperature and presentation.

“This is the only opportunity these teams will have to be critiqued before they go to state,” said Dan Kirby, program coordinator for the Culinary Arts Program at WCCC. Kirby said the chance for the kids to learn from their mistakes is crucial to their performance on a bigger level.

Pro Start is a two-year program offered to area high school students to jump start their careers in the hospitality industry. Every year of the program, at least one area high school team has competed at the state level, Kirby said.

For two years in a row, teams from the Pro Start program have been the state champions.

“We really set these guys up for success,” Kirby said.


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