Competition. Everyone loves a good contest and Morton West is bringing competition to the kitchen with their competitive culinary arts program. Having competition is not only fun, but it’s good for you as well. When someone has a good contest on their hands they are always trying to work hard and make innovations in their craft. It is always nice to see students from different schools put their talents and ideas to the test.
The Morton West Culinary Arts program is a member of the Illinois Association of Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), and each year there are three FCCLA competitions for high school students. The Culinary Arts program asks that students volunteer to be on the competitive team. A minimum of 4 students and a maximum of 12 students are needed to compete. Under normal school conditions, high school students would participate in 3 competitions per year. The FCCLA’s STAR competition begins on the regional level and students will advance to State with a score of 87% or better. Ms. Courtney Bay, Culinary Arts teacher said “Last year we had a team of 5 slated to compete at the State completion on March 13th, and after our breakfast, we were notified by the Governor that school was being shut down.” due to Covid-19. Lindsay Ryan, Culinary Arts teacher said, “When the pandemic first started back in March they literally canceled the competition the day before we were supposed to leave,” Courtney Bay said, ” Our students practice together at school and then when they arrive at College of DuPage they are divided into teams of four with students from other high schools.” The teams of students are given 90 minutes to prepare the food, however, students only get 70 minutes to cook, the other 20 minutes are for preparation and clean up of the workspace. The students are judged on several criteria; organization/presentation, cooking skills, and culinary technique, and finally, taste. The prize for winning the FCCLA competition is a ribbon for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. Culinary teacher Lindsay Ryan said, “We compete against schools in our conference like Riverside Brookfield and Downers Grove South but once you go to State you can face any school in Illinois.”
Students from all across the area are representing both themselves and their school in the FCCLA culinary competitions. The original plan to be safe during spring was to have the students and the judges are both socially distanced away from each other and they are all wearing a mask, except when they are testing the food. Now the competitions will be virtual this year. Cooking is fun for many people but cooking competitively is a whole different ballgame. There are different obstacles and challenges to overcome, and with lots of practice and dedication, the students can be at the top of their game during these high stake competitions.