KHS culinary team chops up competition

by Ikea Simmonds
Kaiserserslautern High School
Photo by Brandon BeachTara Gentz (left), and Quatia Thompson, members of the Kaiserslautern High School culinary team, prepare whole chickens Feb. 25 during the 2015 Culinary Fair at KHS.
Photo by Brandon Beach
Tara Gentz (left), and Quatia Thompson, members of the Kaiserslautern High School culinary team, prepare whole chickens Feb. 25 during the 2015 Culinary Fair at KHS.

The Kaiserslautern High School culinary team will head to Disneyland.

The five-person team out-cooked the competition during the Department of Defense Dependents Schools Europe-sponsored Culinary Fair Feb. 25 at KHS. The home team diced, chopped and sliced their way to a trip to the national high school competition to be held later this year in Anaheim, California.

KHS senior Quatia Thompson, a member of the winning team, couldn’t contain her excitement after the judges tallied up all the points and revealed the results.
“We won! We’re going to nationals,” she screamed.

Teams representing Ramstein, Vilseck and Wiesbaden, Germany, as well as Naples, Italy, kept the kitchen humming during the one-day competition. For the KHS team, the winning menu consisted of an appetizer dish of tuna and salmon sushi covered with a raspberry ginger sauce alongside a bok choy salad and an entree of sauteed beef tenderloin with sweet potato chips, brussels sprouts and a red pomegranate vinaigrette. The menu was topped off by a dessert of mint chocolate mousse with coconut and coffee ganaches.

The culinary competition takes place annually in February with teams competing from different high schools from all over Europe. The teams have to prepare an appetizer, entree and dessert in just one hour. All the competitors can use to prepare the meal is a stove top and hand-held equipment — nothing electronic. Also, multiple professional judges scrutinize every move while competitors cook.

“We are fortunate to have all professional chefs this year as judges,” said Dr. Mary Leonhart, coordinator of this year’s culinary fair and an instructional systems specialist for the DODDS-E Bavaria Office.

The resumes of the judges certainly were impressive. One in particular, David West, is an executive chef at the Ramstein Officers’ Club. He said he began cooking at the age of 6, learning from his mother and grandmother. Those lessons led him to over 50 years in the culinary business.

West said everyone in the kitchen was knowledgeable and had talent beyond their years.

“Everybody is a winner,” he said. “Culinary art is one of the best professions, but you have to have passion, and I see that in all of the kids here today.”

Before the Kaiserslautern team even stepped into the kitchen, they exuded confidence.

“First place is what we are bringing home today. Nothing less,” said Tara Gentz, captain of the KHS team.

Jacob Caballero, another KHS team member, said the team was much more prepared this year than last year. The team took fifth place last year.

Andrew Dager, known around school simply as “Chef,” has been the KHS culinary program coordinator for the past three years. He said he was beyond ecstatic when his team came out on top.

“This team is awesome,” he said. “I know they are going to do great at nationals.”

Members of the KHS Culinary Team are: Gentz, Caballero, Thompson, Stephen Richardson and Charlie Thalamnn.

The team is now off to cook against other teams at Disneyland.

“There are no words to describe how I feel,” Thompson said. “The hard work was all worth it. I am beyond happy.”