EUGENE, Ore. — The two-time state champion, Willamette High School Culinary Team, is competing for its third title this weekend in Portland, and members will do it without any fancy kitchen tools.
Picture The Food Network, Iron Chef or Chopped, but instead of a fancy kitchen, state-of-the-art utensils and a sous chef, the students get two butane burners. Period. The other culinary challenge is there’s no electricity or running water either.
“Every time we practice, we do a full run-through of the meal, so we do the starter, the entrée, and then the dessert,” said student Ben Guerra.
The team of five worked with a mentor chef to whip up a menu they could cook in their constraints, and all in under an hour. But the lack of luxury didn’t mean a less luxurious menu.
Every practice they whip up arugula salad, grilled salmon, rosemary-parmesan polenta, roasted root veggies, and for dessert, a pear and gorgonzola tart with raspberry coolie. It’s a tall order that’s bound to stir up some nerves.
“I’m pretty confident with our team because we’ve been pretty consistent the last few practices, but I’m still a little nervous,” said student Kelsey Vansant.
“A little nervous, anticipating what will happen or trying to think of what will,” Guerra said.
That’s exactly what Coach Humphreys is trying to prepare them for.
“Things will go wrong, and so they need to learn how to problem solve and correct things, and if they can’t correct it, then they have to try and mask it in some way to make it still look the way it’s supposed to be,” said Martha Humphreys.
Humphreys says they’ve practiced making their meal more than 20 times, but this practice will be the last before the big banquet on Saturday.
The Oregon ProStart High School Culinary Competition is Saturday, Feb. 16, and the Wolverines only have to beat out 21 other teams to take home another state title.