Students prep for culinary competition

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Clovis High School senior Summer Price, left, and junior Michael Mount dredge chicken for frying during ProStart class. Both students will take part in the state ProStart competition March 31 in Albuquerque.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

The teams are picked and it’s time to practice.

Students in Clovis High School’s ProStart program are getting ready for the state culinary competition March 31 in Albuquerque.

ProStart, sponsored by the National Restaurant Association, trains students in cooking and food service management.

Instructor Judy Uerling said four students will compete as both a culinary team and management team.

Kaylie Kemp, Jess O’Connell, Summer Price and Michael Mount will practice cooking on a schedule while fielding questions from an audience.

Uerling said Price is a natural.

“She has a sixth sense and it’s for food,” Uerling said.

Price, a senior, said she’s been looking forward to going to the competition since she started at CHS two years ago.

“When I cook, it’s like a getaway or a vacation,” Price said. “I feel like it’s art.”

Price said she can’t wait to see what other contestants make.

“That way we can see how much we can do. I want to see how much of a challenge it will be,” she said.

Junior Michael Mount, who said he grew up cooking in the kitchen with his dad, also is curious to see other contestants’ creations.

“My dad got me into cooking,” he said. “I kind of picked it up from him.”

Mount said he enjoys the ProStart class because he likes being with people sharing a common interest.

“I love to learn the different techniques and skills, too,” Mount said.

The team and Uerling are hoping to make it to the national competition this year.

Last year, the culinary team placed third and the management team placed second at state.

“I want them to have the most positive experience possible,” Uerling said. “I want them to learn from each other and how to work as a team.”

To prepare the competition, the team meets weekly to “practice, practice, practice,” Uerling said.

“As it gets closer, I’ll invite people in to observe so the kids get used to an audience and people asking questions,” she said. There will be an audience at the competition and the judges will be asking questions.

Uerling said the menu for the competition meal hasn’t been decided but the team is leaning toward an Asian-theme with duck as the entree.

“We hope that gives us a little bit of an edge,” Uerling said.