Culinary Team Wins Top Prize
A team of high school students enrolled in a culinary and hospitality services program at Northern Michigan University earned the top prize at a recent statewide junior chef competition. Members of the winning NMU team were Kimberly Wenk of Marquette Senior High School, Hannah Coburn of North Star Academy and Joe Warner of Ishpeming High School.
The trio submitted a recipe for a healthy school meal featuring Michigan-grown and foods within U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines. It consisted of the following: Naan (an Indian flatbread) served open face with egg whites, a lime sriracha sauce, wilted fresh spinach, sautéed mushrooms and onions, tomato and crisped-up hashbrowns; and a fruit and yogurt parfait sprinkled with homemade granola. A panel judged all entries on nutritional quality, use of local ingredients and the ability of school food service staff to replicate the meal in a reasonable time. The NMU team was among eight finalists in grades 7-12 invited to prepare their meals at the Michigan Junior Chef Competition cook-off at Michigan State University.
“The rule was that the meal had to be 600 calories or less,” said Wenk. “It was hard to work within that limit and come up with something that tasted good. We relied on some natural sweeteners. At first we thought of a smoothie for the fruit component, but decided it would be a better presentation with the parfait and granola. I really think our homemade granola helped give us the win.”
Chris Kibit (Technology and Occupational Sciences) said, “Over the last five years, we’ve sent four high school teams to different competitions and all won first place. That demonstrates the quality of the students coming to us in terms of their commitment and dedication. It also says something about the strength of the program.”
NMU established the program about five years ago in collaboration with the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency (MARESA). NMU provides the facilities and faculty—Kibit and adjunct instructor Loganne Boersma. Juniors and seniors from high schools in the two counties can earn elective credits toward their diplomas and potentially 10 NMU credits if they have a B or higher average in three subject areas and continue their education at NMU.
“It makes it easy to try out this field to know if it’s something you want to go into before you get to college,” said Coburn, who plans to pursue a culinary arts career. “It also gives you a chance to save money on tuition by getting some credits while you’re still in high school at no charge.”
Her teammate Warner agreed, adding, “Other schools have home ec classes where they learn about foods, cooking and gardening. But I think this program is more intensive in what we learn and the skills they teach us. At the cook-off, it was obvious other students’ knife skills weren’t as good and they didn’t have the experience and training we had. The level of instruction we receive from the chefs is a definite advantage. They over-prepared us for the competition, which was a good thing.”
As the top finisher, the NMU team received $750 for the program and each member received a product prize.