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Clear Spring students show skills in Md. competition

November 30, 1999

Teams representing Washington County's new culinary and hospitality careers program didn't win, but one did itself proud overcoming a last-minute glitch in statewide competition recently.

The teams from Clear Spring High School, which is piloting the ProStart program here, competed against teams from several other high schools in the Maryland ProStart Student Invitational Feb. 10 at Howard Community College in Columbia, Md.

Dottie O'Toole, ProStart teacher at Clear Spring, said the school was to be represented by Brittany Grimm, Linsey Hartle, Keith Gilchrist and Eric Seal on its culinary team. Alternate Danny Reed was unable to attend.

Matt Dressler, James Mills, and Katia Evans were on the school's hospitality management team.

"We all learned a lot from the competition," O'Toole said. "We did not score in the top three, but we had lots of fun! The event was very well planned and most things went smoothly."

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Howard County Applications and Research Laboratory won culinary competition and Eastern Technical High School in Baltimore County won the management competition in the state's third annual ProStart competition. It is sponsored by the Maryland Hospitality Education Foundation.

O'Toole said it was a good test for Washington County's new program.

Next year, ProStart will become part of the curriculum at North Hagerstown High, South Hagerstown High and Williamsport High schools, she said.

For this year's teams, the planning for the competition was intense, O'Toole said. "The culinary team needed to choose recipes and determine cost. They had to copy the recipes and recipe costs onto the Maryland ProStart Invitational templates, create lab preparation sheets and work plans for practice, as well as for the actual competition.

"The students were responsible for planning how to transport the ingredients and equipment to the event. They proceeded with labeling each item, creating packing slips for the inside, as well as the outside of the coolers. Then at 7 on a Saturday morning, they came in to finish packing the coolers and equipment containers," she said.

At the competition, the students demonstrated their knife skills by cutting carrots using the julienne, brunoise and diagonal cuts, as well as mincing cloves of garlic.

Things seemed to be going well, until suddenly team member Seal "turned very pale and passed out onto the floor," O'Toole said.

"He hit so hard that his fall was heard in the bleacher area where I was sitting with a group of teachers from South High and Williamsport High Schools."

Seal was unable to compete, but teammates Grimm, Hartle and Gilchrist rallied "and were still able to finish without being penalized for going over their time allotment," O'Toole said.

She said the students' menu consisted of mandarin salad with sweet and sour dressing for an appetizer. The main dish was chicken breast with an orange glaze and rice pilaf. For dessert, they made chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Clear Spring's management team also worked together well, but finished out of the running, O'Toole said.

The students on both teams said they felt honored to be the county's first representatives in the competition.

"It was fun. If I had to do it over again, I would because it felt really good to be the first ProStart group in Washington County to go to the competition," management team member Katia Evans said.

"Even though we prepared and studied really hard, we did not win. I think we did really well, even though it was our first time," she said.

Teammates Dressler and Mills said they studied hard to prepare. For their team, the competition included a case study and two rounds of Quiz Bowl, Dressler said.

"We went up against teams who had been preparing for competition for months, and are there for their second or third years of their ProStart class," Mills said. "Even though we were going against teams who have been preparing so long, we won one round."

Culinary teammates Hartle, Grimm and Gilchrist were proud of their efforts, too.

"It feels pretty cool knowing I was one of the first people to set the bar for Washington County," Grimm said. "It's cool," Gilchrist agreed.

Hartle called the competition "an awesome learning experience, and it gave us a chance to see all sorts of different things, maybe even things we might consider as a career. We also all worked together as a team, even when we lost one of our members, ... we still pulled everything together and got done on time. Now we know what kinds of things we're going against next year and what we need to work on."

O'Toole summed it up. "All in all, it was a fun and eventful day," she said.

And, while the teams were awaiting the final results at the awards ceremony, one of the judges "came by to make sure that Eric was OK, and told him that he had earned the name 'Crash' after his little 'crashing incident.' " O'Toole added, laughing.

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