Greenville High School’s culinary team went from being one of the best in the state to the best in the state two weeks ago. The smallest of the schools competing, Greenville’s culinary team beat out teams from 27 other California high schools from up and down the state.
Student chefs and entrepreneurs traveled to the Sheraton Fairplex in Pomona on March 19 and 20 to compete in the 15th annual California ProStart Cup presented by the California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.
“We are the littlest one [school] and dedicated. These kids have been practicing after school and weekends on their free time,” said culinary teacher Judy Dolphin. She’s worked with the competition around 15 years. She noted that some of the schools Greenville High competed against have state-of-the-art kitchens and programs where the students practice during class time everyday — which makes the extracurricular win all the more rewarding. The students have been preparing for the competition for the last four months.
Culinary coach Sean Conry had similar observations. “I have had the privilege to work with this program for 10 years in Plumas County schools. The true joy is watching the students achieve their goals. The goal could be as great as winning it all or just being prepared enough to compete.”
He echoed the sentiment that the students, teacher and coach put in major time commitments to get to the state competition and acknowledge help along the way.
“The Cleary family has been big supporters of the program, giving me the opportunity to be able to provide time, materials and travel expenses for the annual event. I am grateful for that,” acknowledged Conry.
Students competed for more than $2.3 million in available scholarships and the opportunity to represent California at the National ProStart Invitational in South Carolina.
Greenville High School took home the top prize for culinary with an Italian inspired menu of acqua pazza and budino.
Orange County School of the Arts took home the top prize for management with their restaurant concept “C&C Eatery,” a community-oriented restaurant serving up home-style cooking.
This was the first time Greenville won first place, but the high school culinary team took home second-place wins in 2011 and 2013.
“Newport has taken first place a few times and they came in third this time so we thought maybe we’d be second or maybe we didn’t place,” said Dolphin. When Greenville was called out for first place, it took a moment to register for the team that they’d won.
“They called us and we just stood there for a second. Wait a minute, that’s us!” Dolphin said.
Looking back at the judges’ comments gave Dolphin a clue to their success. The comments were the best critiques they’d ever seen. Their dessert was given a flawless critique.
“Our dessert was really simple, but really delicious. They liked the way it taste,” Dolphin said.
Only two members of the team had ever competed before and in past years, the Greenville High team had run into harsh critiques for seasonings being off. There was an Asian menu that had too much going on in it. There was a venison and apple dish that was sourced locally but didn’t go over well at the state competition. This year they went with an Italian menu they practiced many times. Dolphin said she was proud of the quality of their winning menu.
Winning teams were awarded trophies and scholarships to aid in their pursuit of higher education. First-place winning teams from each competition will be sponsored by BJ’s Restaurants Foundation to compete in the 2017 National ProStart Invitational, April 28 through 30, in Charleston, South Carolina. The Greenville team’s travel expenses will be covered by Johnny Rockets — which also helped sponsor the California competition.
The Orange County School of the Arts team and Greenville’s team will merge to be one “California Team.”
“I will be traveling with the team to Charleston … in April along with the Orange County teamwho won the management side of the competition. The California Restaurant Association also sends its staff with us. It should be about a group of 20 or so there in support of Greenville and the Golden State,” said Conry.
In Dolphin’s room at Greenville High, she is busy fielding phone calls going over what the menu will be and coordinating with the other school. While most ingredients will be what’s on hand in South Carolina for the competition, the California team must figure out how to and what to pack as far as equipment they will need goes.
In Greenville, there’s been much elation around the high school and town. Prom has been postponed — it was the same weekend as the competition in South Carolina.
The local chapter of Pheasants Forever has donated gift certificates of $100 to each of the students who won the culinary competition, “Redeemable for cash at the Way Station right before the competition. Those kids should have some spending money in their pockets for the trip,” said Pheasants Forever organizer Bev Hardesty.
At the Pheasants Forever dinner at the Way Station on April 1, the culinary team was hired to make side dishes and dessert. The award of the gift certificates was kept top secret to surprise the culinary teacher, Judy Dolphin and her five students.
Greenville High was the only high school in Plumas County to participate in the competition.