Dozens of students from high schools all over Utah put their culinary skills to the test Thursday at the ProStart State Competition at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi. Teams from Provo and Westlake represented Utah County as each team raced to prepare an appetizer, entree and dessert in 60 minutes. Judges inspected the food for both taste and presentation.
Chef Peter Hodgson helped run the show and said he was impressed by the quality of the work the students were doing.
"It's as good as any line cook in a hotel," Hodgson said.
As a clock counted down the remaining time, teams of students in white uniforms worked hurriedly to prepare elaborate meals. Over a din of sizzling food and the clang of pots and pans, the students shouted to each other to keep on top of the time, to ask for assistance and to alert their teammates when moving around quickly with a hot cooking instrument.
Hodgson said that the biggest challenge for the students is learning to work in the fast-paced, high-pressure world of a professional kitchen.
"It's easy to go to culinary school but if you haven't got that, you've got nothing," Hodgson said. For many of the students, Hodgson explained, the competition is their first experience with working in this kind of environment.
"It's life-changing," he said. "It's a wonderful program and as a professional chef I really support it."
Westlake student Katrina DeKarver said the competitive aspect of her ProStart program made it more interesting for her.
"I love it. Personally, for me, it's more like a sports team," DeKarver said, explaining that they are constantly practicing and trying new things. She and her teammates said they hoped to win Thursday's competition, which would send them to nationals, but the experience was what mattered.
"For me it will absolutely be worthwhile, even if we don't win," Westlake's Nicole Bishop said.