The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Students entering cooking competition


March 3, 2019

Jamie Cushman

Clovis High School senior Davena Stevens, left, and senior Kenneth Mullikin prepare the lamb gyros and Greek potatoes which will make up the team's entree at Monday's competition.

CLOVIS - At Clovis High School, there's no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen.

Students from the CHS ProStart class, which teaches students the basics of cooking, will travel to Albuquerque on Monday to take part in the annual New Mexico ProStart Invitational, a statewide cooking and restaurant management competition for high schoolers.

"It tests their skills and it shows their determination, their teamwork, just so many different things," teacher Diane Chapman said about Monday's competition.

Chapman said CHS will have a team of four participating in the cooking competition, with three students cooking and one student, senior Kenneth Mullikin, acting as the team manager.

"I enjoy cooking but I also think it's important to be a manager simply because it helps keep everybody focused and knowing what they're doing," he said.

"It will be my first time (competing)," senior Davena Stevens said. "I'm nervous, excited. I really hope we get first or second place."

Chapman said the students will be judged on the food products they bring to the competition, as well as appearance, presentation, communication, proper time management and cooking procedures, teamwork and professionalism, among other qualities.

In addition to the food they will be cooking, Chapman said each team also has to provide a booklet with recipes, cost breakdowns and other information.

The students will have an hour to prepare a three-course meal consisting of a Greek salad, lamb gyros with potatoes and Greek baklava.

"I guess (I like) the thrill of it, how there's a time limit and everything. It just makes it better, it's fun," junior Steven Quiroz said.

Brianna Dennis, the education director for the New Mexico Restaurant Association, said Monday's contest will feature more than 100 students from 14 schools across the state, with college credit and scholarship opportunities available.

The winning team will compete at the national ProStart Invitational in Washington, D.C., in May.

The ProStart class has already had outside-the-classroom benefits for Quiroz, who said the food-safety skills he learned in class helped him earn a promotion at work.

Getting the current generation of high school students inside the kitchen is no small task.

"(The ProStart class is) just the basics cooking that kids aren't getting at home," Chapman said. "From the time I first started teaching to now, I'm just not getting students that have any experience in the kitchen. In fact I've got more students that parents won't allow them in there or they just use the microwave."

For some students, the ProStart class gives them a chance to get a head start on their future career, like Stevens who said she hopes to own a restaurant in Las Vegas or Los Angeles.

"I just love food. I like to be around food so cooking it more and more every day just eases stress," she said. "That's why I like to cook, because it eases stress."

For others like Mullikin, the skills learned in the classroom kitchen will simply be a benefit later in life when they are cooking at home.

"I enjoy just the cooking and the experience, cooking and being able to do it with people I like to be around, friends," he said. "And I kind of like the competitive part, but I mostly just enjoy the cooking experience."

Mullikin encouraged other students interested in cooking to give the ProStart program a try.

"Anybody else that wants to know this kind of thing, taking ProStart classes and whatnot and participating in the events is a really good way to learn more about it," Mullikin said.


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