BHS students cook way to second in state
Thanks to the Baldwin High School culinary students, great smells of freshly cooked Asian food radiated throughout the school for more than a month.
Those mouth-watering aromas ended in March, when the team placed second at the fifth-annual Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association Education Foundation Culinary Competition in Wichita.
"We're competing with schools of all sizes and all types of programs," said Sandra Lawson, BHS family and consumer science teacher. "I think these kids from Baldwin did pretty well, considering what they were up against."
Lawson was just happy to see her students enjoying themselves, so the second-place finish was a bonus.
"I am happy if they place at all," Lawson said. "I just want them to go, have a good time and get the experience. What I saw my students do made me very proud of them. I thought they were very organized."
The team consisted of senior Shawn Reed, junior Carly Young, senior Jerod Seele, senior Daniel Swanson and senior Aaron Hannon as the alternate.
"It was really fun working as a team," Young said. "I loved eating the beef Jerod (Seele) made everyday. However, a dishwasher would make everything more pleasant."
BHS competed in two different sections of the contest. The first section, or Management Phase, includes a knowledge bowl, where team members are tested on their knowledge and a case study.
"In the case study, (the team is) given a situation," Lawson said. "They have to come up with a solution to the problem, which usually includes managing a restaurant."
The second section is the culinary competition, where the team prepared two full meals from their menu.
"Each member of the team is responsible for making their part of the menu." Lawson said. "It is a lot of complicated cooking, without the necessities that most people have in a modern kitchen."
Before the Bulldogs competed, they evaluated other schools' cooking.
"They were the last ones to compete in the day," Lawson said. "They were going around and critiquing the other plates, and that's very good for them. I never thought they would have done that."
Lawson said her students were calm and collected during their one hour cooking time.
"When it came to their competition time, those kids were so relaxed," Lawson said. "They were joking amongst each other and working as a team. I never saw that here in the classroom. It made me feel so good."
Each team is limited in what it can use during the cooking portion.
"In the competition, they can't use anything but two gas burners," Lawson said. "We have no refrigerator and no sink. We have everything make shift. Our refrigerator is a cooler. This year, we did get a portable sink to wash our hands."
The meal prepared by the team included soba noodle salad with ponza sauce, sesame seed stir fry with snow peas, sweet potato crisp, banana egg rolls and mango wonton with chocolate sauce.
Reed made the salad, Seele prepared the main entree, Swanson did the egg rolls and Young took care of the potato crisp and several cuts for the other foods.
"On the salad, they were told in the four years of the competition, that was the best salad they have ever had," Lawson said. "It was very unique, because it's not the typical lettuce. It had a tremendous blend of flavors."
Lawson said the stir fry was typical, but was good. She also said the egg rolls were popular, except with the judges.
"Everybody loved these, except for the judges," Lawson said of the egg rolls. "The judges felt that we could have made our own wrappers. They also felt that they were cooked a little too long, since they were hard to cut into. But they did like the chocolate sauce."
BHS finished its cooking 10 minutes early, which helped its score.
"My students finished 10 minutes early," Lawson said. "In class, we are usually right up to the bell. They got some points for being done early."
Baldwin also sent two students to compete in the edible centerpiece competition.
"It has to be made out of fruits or vegetables and it all should be edible," Lawson said. "It should be used for a centerpiece."
Courtney Dally took first in the edible centerpiece contest with her rabbit.
All of the BHS students who competed at the contest are enrolled in the Pro Start II class and must be a junior or senior.
Lawson was pleased with how the team competed, noting that she received many compliments from other schools as to the way the team worked together.
"Everything went smoothly," Lawson said. "But, it was a long time between everything. We did average compared to other schools on the knowledge bowl, but did a great job on the case study. We were last to do the food preparation and the judge said that we were very professional."
(BHS junior Wesley Callahan contributed to this story.)