Seaside High School’s participation in the ProStart Invitational was revived this school year, with the four-person team of culinary students placing fourth at the state competition March 18.

“We are really happy with our results, and for being able to get fourth, with this being the first year with the culinary program back at the high school,” junior Cyrus Knox said. “We hope to learn from our mistakes so we can come back next year and take the title.”

Teammate and senior Gavin Meyer agreed.

“I’m so glad I was able to participate,” he said. “I’m excited to get our scores to see where the team can improve for next year.”

The school used to participate regularly in the competition, put on by the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association’s Education Foundation. They took first place in 2013 and 2014, advancing to the national ProStart High School Culinary Championship, but have not competed for a couple years.

Chelsea Archibald, who took the helm of the culinary program in the fall, believes the competition provides an opportunity for dedicated culinary students to demonstrate their skills, and the Seaside students were “thrilled” to resume their participation. Along with Knox and Meyer, the team consisted of senior Mason Shamion and junior Luis Moreno.

The invitational also requires students to submit their recipes and the cost, based on the individual ingredients and their quantities, as ProStart—a career and technical education (CTE) foodservice training program—is focused on “teaching kids restaurant industry standards,” Archibald said. It’s important, she added, for them to realize what factors go into pricing if a restaurant wants to turn a profit.

Along with Archibald, the Seaside students received mentorship from John Newman, the owner and chef at Newman’s at 988 in Cannon Beach, and Geoff Gunn, chef and general manager at Pacific Way Café in Gearhart.

A full menu in 60 minutes

The ProStart Invitational, which takes place at the Salem Convention Center, features two distinct events: the culinary competition and the management competition. The Seaside team took part in the culinary competition, during which the teams develop a unique menu for a three-course meal and prepare that meal in 60 minutes using two butane burners.

They have no access to electricity or running water and must include at least two of the following cooking methods: poach, shallow poach, braise, pan fry, steam, and sauté.

Seaside’s team prepared crab cakes with scallops with aioli and an herb salad for the appetizer; sautéed steak tenderloins, blanched asparagus, fingerling potatoes and béarnaise sauce for the entrée; and chocolate mousse with blood oranges and candied hazelnuts for dessert. While the students worked together as a team, they also took specific responsibilities. Shamion headed up the appetizer, Knox prepared dinner, and Meyer and Moreno focused on dessert. They prepare two plates of each portion — one for the judge and one for display — and were evaluated on their menu’s degree of difficulty, food safety and sanitation, knife skills, cooking procedures, food costing, teamwork, and the taste and presentation of their meal.

‘Glowing reviews’

At the competition, Archibald said, “they got glowing reviews on their dishes,” and the judges were “impressed by their ability to problem-solve and keep calm under pressure.”

Knox, who currently works at the Astoria Pig ’N Pancake, Tora Sushi, and Gearhart Bowling Alley, said the competition is exciting, challenging and stressful. Shamion described it as an opportunity to take their culinary skills “to the next level.”

Moreno was pleased with the team’s results, considering all members participated for the first time.

“We did pretty good as a rookie team,” he said. “It’s too bad we will lose two of our teammates after this year, but hopefully we can build a strong team for next year.”

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