The Secret is in the Sauce

Students in the Academy of Hospitality and Marketing at Glencliff High School have had an extremely successful year- and an especially eventful Spring semester. Jonathan Q. writes about his unique experiences this year thanks to his participation in the academies. 

photoProStart Competition

On March 9th, Shayla, Sydney, and I took part in the ProStart competition held at McGavock High School. We competed with other high schools from Tennessee. About two months prior to this event we practiced our strategy for how to face this challenge. With the help of Chef Scrivner and Loews Vanderbilt Hotel’s Chef Joe DeGuira, we had a game plan to pursue this competition with ease. When that day arrived, we drove to McGavock High, a pretty big school by the way, to check in. They informed us that we would be one of the last teams to compete, so it gave us plenty of time to scout out the competition. I have to admit that there were a couple of teams that I was afraid of because of the incredible dishes these teams created. When the time came, we knew we had to put our game faces on. We made a three course meal which consisted of a kale salad with toasted almonds, apricots and pecorino cheese; pan-seared chicken on top of quinoa with veggies all topped with a relajo sauce; and for dessert red velvet napoleon with fresh berries. All of this in 60 minutes and we finished with time left over!  Next was judging, and I was very nervous! The judges explained how they loved our three course meal. We were announced as the 2nd place winners in the entire state!

 

The Next Teen Chef Competition

Maneet Chuahan is doing a book tour through the US. In the major cities on her tour that have public high schools teaching the ProStart curriculum, she is holding the Cutting Edge Challenge—The Next Teen Chef Competition.  When she stopped in Nashville, she selected Glencliff High School to hold that competition. Chef Scrivner picked Shayla, Sydney, and I to compete again. We were now put in a different situation where once we were teammates, now we were competitors. One of the only rules was that we had to cook 3 identical entrées in 40 minutes that consisted of a protein, veggie, and a starch. The protein and starch I felt like I had “in the bag”, but the vegetable tripped me up! I usually don’t eat veggies, but through a small miracle I pulled it together. During our few practices we had, I felt horrible because time kept running out on me; I always went over 10 or 15 minutes.  This got me scared because we were now only one day before the competition. To make things worse I had an End of Course exam right before! With my nerves on edge, I used my music to calm me down and it worked.

 

The competition was here and right before they said go, I prayed to God to give me the strength and wisdom to be successful in this challenge. That Tuesday, the kitchen was hectic because of all the cameras and by-standers chit-chatting in the way all while I was in “game mode”. After 20 minutes, I must have gotten over all of these people in my way because I found myself in my own groove with a little dancing here and there. Another 10 minutes flew by and I found that I was on track to finish in perfect time, that is until I checked my pork and found that it was raw in the middle. I panicked because the clock only said 5 minutes left.  The only remedy that I could think of was to cut the pork into 9 medallions and lay them on the grill to cook faster. The clock hit zero and guess what…that day was the 1st time that I finished within the 40 minute time limit!  I prepared chipotle crusted pork tenderloin on a bed of basmati rice with tajadas (fried plantains) and stemmed vegetables topped with a relajo sauce that my mom makes at home. The judges were very tough and pointed out every mistake. When they finished judging the rest of the competitors, they tallied all the numbers and brought us back to name the winner. When they announced my name as the winner, I was speechless. I remained silent simply because I genuinely didn’t think I was going to win knowing that the other two chefs had created awesome dishes too. It was eventually stated that I had won because of my mother’s sauce!

 

This competition awarded me with a $6000 scholarship, a knife kit from Maneet Chauhan and a cookbook with two reservations for the Watermark Restaurant. This win makes it clear to me that I should be in this profession. I can’t wait to find out what the future holds for me.

 

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