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Washington County grad served gold medal at national event

July 07, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- A local high school graduate recently claimed first-place honors in a national competition that tested her food and beverage service skills.

Erica Conrad, 18, of Williamsport, graduated last month from Washington County Technical High School. Late last month, she took first place in the SkillsUSA competition in her category. Her former principal, Jeff Stouffer, said it is the first time a local student has taken the top prize at the event.

Clutching her other prize last week, a gold medal, Erica said she was excited over her win.

Erica won first place in the regional and state competitions in order to advance to the national contest, which was held recently in Kansas City. As part of her prize, Erica was awarded a full scholarship to attend New England Culinary Institute in Vermont.

"She's an outstanding student," Stouffer said of Erica. "We're extremely proud of her."

She had been planning to attend Hagerstown Community College in the fall, but said she looks forward to studying hospitality and restaurant management at the institute.

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"I love working with people," Erica said. "That makes me feel good ... meeting new people and meeting their needs."

In order to win the SkillsUSA competition, Erica said she had to take a written test that covered food and beverage service and sanitation.

"Then we had to memorize a really complicated menu," she said, and be able to describe the items.

Erica and the 45 other contestants also were asked to set a table for a formal meal. She also had to do nearly every job that employees in a restaurant would be asked to do. She was the hostess, the server and even cleared the table after the meal.

"It's everything for fine dining, and how you handle it," Erica said.

She said she had some help preparing for the competition. Erica has been a waitress at Cafe Del Sol in Hagerstown for a little more than two years.

"I don't think I would have known half of what I knew if I didn't live it every day," Erica said of the help she received from her part-time job. "It's taking care of the needs of customers."

Tammy Twigg, Erica's culinary arts teacher at Washington County Technical High, said her former student has "a lot of talent."

"She was just a natural," Twigg said.

Erica said it's possible she could own her own restaurant some day, but said that graduating from the culinary institute with a specialty in hospitality and restaurant management will leave her with "so many opportunities."

She could work on a cruise, Erica said. She was offered a job aboard a cruise ship before graduating from high school, but declined.

Erica said she'd like to pursue hotel management, or maybe even be a food critic.

Washington County Technical High School students who competed in the SkillsUSA contest include:

· Erica Conrad (Food and Beverage Service): First Place

· Amanda Stone (Health Occupations Professional Portfolio): Sixth Place

· Jessica Phillips (Internetworking): 13th Place

· Patrick Powell, Eric Wilfong and Joshua Zimmerman (Engineering Technology Team): 10th Place

· Kelli Lowman with model Amanda Palmer (Nail Care): 19th Place

· Jessica Morley, Barbara Peace, T.J. Cross and Jacob Dunn (Entrepreneurship Team): 11th Place

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