Culinary Arts Fair comes to Baumholder

by Daniel Phoenix
435th Air Ground Operations Wing historian
Chef Christopher Rolack, Culinary Arts Fair judge, tastes a rice dish prepared by one of the teams visiting Baumholder during the second annual Culinary Arts Fair Feb. 13.
Chef Christopher Rolack, Culinary Arts Fair judge, tastes a rice dish prepared by one of the teams visiting Baumholder during the second annual Culinary Arts Fair Feb. 13.

Culinary students from around Europe came to Baumholder American High School to compete in the second European Culinary Arts Fair Feb. 13 and 14. Nine teams from eight Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe competed in team and individual categories during the intense two-day event.

In the end, teamwork paid off for the team from Schweinfurt as they took first place in the cooking competition.

“All of these students study a culinary arts curriculum called Pro Start,” said Faye Batey, DODDS-E career and technical education coordinator.

Schools in the states that offer the Pro Start curriculum have these same events and the winner of the cooking event here could end up traveling to Maryland to participate in national competition.

The competition is a team event consisting of four people to a team.

“There is also the quiz bowl. This is also a team event and we in DODDS-Europe have added some individual events like cake decorating, apple carving and napkin folding,” Batey said.

DODDS understands many students may not go on to pursue a four-year college education so DODDS offers students alternatives in their curriculum to prepare them for carriers in other arenas.

“We realize that some of our students may not be going to university so by participating in this program and by taking the exams at the end of the year and passing them, our students have a real leg up on some jobs in the culinary field, or to go on to culinary arts schools in the states,” Batey said.

For Cheyana Toussaint, a member of the winning team from Schweinfurt High School, the Culinary Fair and culinary curriculum provided a golden opportunity to further her experience and knowledge in her chosen career field.

“I just like to cook so I took a pre-culinary class last year and I’m in a culinary class now. This was an opportunity to learn more, faster and better for my college experience. I actually would like to be a chef so this is my career field,” Toussaint said.

Like most competitive events, the element of time comes into play and the culinary fair was no exception. Teams had one hour to prepare three meals. Each meal included one portion for display and one for the judges to taste.

“We’ve been practicing the time limit so actually we’re pretty used to it. In the beginning it was a little scary because we didn’t think that we could complete three meals in an hour. But in the end we found out that it’s not that hard and if we work together as a team we could really pull it off,” Toussaint said.

Julian Buckner, a chef and instructor at Ramstein High School, said this event involves more than the ability to cook.

“You have to get the commitment from the students first,” Buckner said. “To me, it’s not the best cooks that I have in my class but it’s the ones that can get along with the team because then I can teach them what they need to cook for these types of competitions.”

Chef Andy Dager, culinary arts instructor at Kaiserslautern High School, pointed out that students have been busy gearing up for this event for some time now.

“These guys have been getting ready for just over a month. When they come here they have about an hour to cook and they have to prepare a menu of three items. Over the last month they have worked to finish what their menus were going to be, practiced making them and prepared for that time table to come here and execute it today,” Dager said.

For students, their dedication to the culinary arts curriculum is a win-win situation, regardless of how they fare in the competition. Students who successfully complete Culinary I, Culinary II, or both, receive a certificate from the Pro Start curriculum, which is recognized throughout industry in the states and at many culinary arts institutes. Students also have the opportunity to hone their skills and make themselves more marketable by working 500 hours in the industry during their senior year, for which they can also receive certification.

“It is really a very intense program and the students come out with some very salable skills,” Batey said.