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Although they did not place in the top five, the chefs-in-training learned some valuable lessons at the state contest

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - The Crook County High School Culinary Arts students pose for a photo in their chef's jackets during the Oregon ProStart High School Culinary Championships. Pictured left to right are Laura Fraser, Monica Lopez, Courtney Austin, Neil Chaney and instructor Macy Hagensee.

Four Crook County High School Culinary Arts students traveled to Salem last weekend to compete in the statewide Oregon ProStart High School Culinary Championships.

The student chefs had to prepare a three-course gourmet meal with only two butane burners in less than an hour.

“The kids did really well. I’m super proud of them. It’s a demanding competition that requires you to be perfect to place in the top five,” said CCHS culinary instructor Macy Hagensee. “We did not place despite our high expectations.”

South Salem High School came in first place in the championship, which the Education Foundation for the Oregon Restaurant and Logging Association hosted Saturday, Feb. 27 at Chemeketa Community College.

CCHS juniors Courtney Austin, Laura Fraser, Monica Lopez and Neil Chaney entered the competition under the guidance of Hagensee.

“There were moments of greatness, but in the end we just didn’t hit the mark in the spots that we needed to,” Hagensee said.

ProStart is a national career and technical education program teaching high school students culinary and management skills needed by restaurant, hospitality and foodservice employers. Focused on culinary techniques and restaurant management skills, this competency-based curriculum also includes real-life restaurant experiences.

The Oregon ProStart state competition is the capstone of this two-year program, providing a public opportunity for students to showcase what they have learned.

Of the 36 Oregon school programs currently involving more than 3,000 ProStart students, 21 schools sent teams to the culinary competition on the quest to win scholarships.

Hagensee said his students will go back to the drawing board and are looking forward to their next competition at Cascade Culinary Institute in May.

These same four students were at the ProStart competition last year. Hagensee said that although they did not place this time around, they did walk away with some great experience, including working under pressure in an environment where perfect is the expectation.

“Anytime you put them into situations like that and they perform with dedication, purpose and pose, it is impressive and inspiring as a teacher to see,” Hagensee said.

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