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ST. CLAIRE DONAGHY | INDEX-JOURNAL

From left, students Oscar Gutierrez, Yatia Lancaster, Izaiah Holmes and instructor Melissa Germain represented the G. Frank Russell Technology Center during a regional culinary competition for high school students in Greenville April 15.


Three culinary students at the G. Frank Russell Technology Center competed in the SkillsUSA Regional Competition at the Virginia College Greenville campus April 15.

Students had opportunity to participate in culinary, baking, pastry and restaurant services competitions during the one-day event.

Melissa Germain, a first-year culinary arts instructor at G. Frank Russell Technology Center, said she was pleased her students finished the competition.

"I was really thrilled they finished all the components in the allotted time," Germain said. "The two who did the baking portion had not even picked up a knife in the fall when I started teaching them. They were thrilled they got everything done. I know for next year what to look for."

Thirteen students from 12 schools competed in commercial baking and pastry. They were assigned tasks such as preparation of breads, pies, cookies and cakes. A baking skills written test was also administered. 

Oscar Gutierrez, 17, of the G. Frank Russell Career Center and Greenwood High School finished 10th.

"Time during the competition went by so fast," Gutierrez said, noting he also grew up cooking with a grandmother, particularly on evenings when his parents work the night shift with their jobs.

Competitors in culinary arts had to prepare a full meal, which consisted of poultry fabrication, knife cuts, a composed salad with emulsified dressing, soup presentation and an entree. A culinary skills test was administered.

Yatia Lancaster, 17, of the G. Frank Russell Career Center and Emerald High School finished ninth.

"It was really nerve-racking," Lancaster said, of the competition, noting she enrolled in the culinary arts class as a means to preserve her memories of cooking alongside her late grandmother. 

Nine students from eight schools competed in restaurant service. Competitors were judged on professional appearance, body language, tone and organization. There was a written test and required tasks to be performed.

Izaiah Holmes, 17, of the G. Frank Russell Career Center and Greenwood High School finished fourth.

"I worried about all the little things I could have done wrong during competition," Holmes said, noting he signed up for culinary arts because he thought the class would be interesting.

Tuesday, G. Frank Russell culinary arts students conducted a fundraiser for their program, a bake sale, to help with transportation costs to and from Stoney Point next week. Eight students in the program are assisting with the Symetra Tour Women's Health Classic at The Links at Stoney Point, working with the Stoney Point culinary staff during two days of the golf tournament.

"It's going to be a good experience," Germain said. "I've got my eight top students in culinary arts 1 and 2. The chef is setting them up to work one-on-one with one of his cooks, hands-on. They are excited to get off campus."

Gutierrez said it's anticipated several thousand people will be served food during the tournament week.

For the bake sale, students made dozens of pastries, four different types of puff pastries, and fried biegnets. They also made two types of lemonade.

Germain said she "doesn't do anything out of a box or a bag" and she encourages her students to cook and bake from scratch as well. Germain is encouraging students to put together recipes for a student cookbook and she said they will be baking and decorating tiered cakes soon as part of another project.

Germain has degrees in culinary arts, baking and pastry and more than 25 years experience in the hotel and restaurant industry.

SkillsUSA is a nationwide career and technical education student organization which hosts competitions across a wide range of industries. 

For the culinary competition, first-place winners in each category were awarded $2,250 scholarships to Virginia College in Greenville. It is part of 72 campus locations that are part of Education Corporation of America (ECA). These post-secondary career colleges are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

ITALIAN-HERBED AIRLINE CHICKEN BREAST, recipe from Yatia Lancaster

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon tarragon

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon rosemary

1/2-pound airline chicken breast (a chicken breast with the first joint of the wing still attached) You can prepare a breast yourself in this manner if you have a whole chicken, or ask your butcher to prepare it for you.

Mix seasonings and spices only in a small bowl. Place chicken breast in a medium bowl. Add 1/4 cup olive oil to chicken, followed by seasoning mixture. Grill or saute over medium-high heat about six or seven minutes per side. Internal temperature of the chicken breast should be 165 degrees F.