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Williamsport students serve up works of art

April 09, 2010|By JANET HEIM

WILLIAMSPORT -- It was almost like an episode of "Top Chef," the popular TV show on which restaurant chefs compete against one another in culinary challenges.

This competition took place at Williamsport High School, with seven student teams of the ProStart II class racing the clock for a plating competition Thursday.

Nineteen students in instructor Jeanne "Dusty" Graham's class were given the assignment to plate three brownie squares and incorporate some portion of an Italian pizzelle cookie in the design. The presentations could make use of a variety of garnishes, from frostings, syrups and drizzles to fruits, nuts and sprinkles.

Graham reminded the students that less is more and that the completed plates should look like something they would see in a fine dining restaurant.

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The students, who had all completed the ProStart I class previously, were given class time the day before to plan their designs, which included preliminary drawings of what they thought their final plate would look like.

During Thursday's competition, four judges gave scores for flow (how the food tied together), how visually appetizing each plate was, creativity, neatness, how the food fit the plate, overall design and color.

Satrina Lewis and Josh Churchey's garnishes and presentation of strawberries and drizzled lime sauce earned them the top score. Glenn Grimm and Will Tosten, who had the second highest score, also used strawberries and lime sauce, along with a caramel and chocolate drizzle and a center bowl with strawberries and ladyfingers.

"It's a fun class. I've learned a lot," Satrina said.

Graham said she started teaching the ProStart program three years ago when Williamsport High made the switch from a more-traditional cooking class to the restaurant management and culinary arts program, which is funded by the National Restaurant Education Foundation.

She has taken courses at L'Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Md., and at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., to better prepare her for teaching the program, which also is offered at Hancock Middle/Senior High, North Hagerstown High and South Hagerstown High.

Students who take the two classes and work 400 hours -- up to 150 hours can be volunteer work -- in the food service or hospitality/tourism industry can earn a national certification with the National Restaurant Association, Graham said.

Student Yunji Seol volunteers at Washington County Hospital making sandwiches. Her teammate Ashley Morgan works at the Hagerstown Suns concession stand.

The two students, along with Elizabeth Grebenstein, designed the only plate with a theme. Musical notes and a treble clef artfully lined three corners of their plate, which finished in a three-way tie for third place.

Elizabeth, a senior, said she wants to be a teacher, but was inspired by the movie "Julie & Julia" about Julia Child. She said she likes to cook, and two ProStart classes have given her skills so she can help cook at home and take on more responsibility.

Graham said her students have catered a holiday tea for the Hagerstown Branch of the AAUW and help with the STARS breakfast at the school.

Williamsport High guidance counselor Randy Longnecker, one of the judges, told Graham that a record 100 students have signed up for next year's ProStart I and ProStart II classes she teaches.

"Kids are talking. They like what they hear," he said.

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