'The kids just nailed it' – Seaside claims state culinary crown

<p>Seaside High School culinary students, from left, Porter Johnson, junior, Ian Kimbrough, junior, Celina Nicolazzi, junior, Adam Hutchinson, senior, and Garret Rogers, junior, stand in front of a whiteboard reading "Congratulations" the day after their victory over 16 other high schools in the Oregon ProStart High School Culinary Championships.</p>

SEASIDE — “It’s a good day,” John Newman said from Seaside High School’s culinary classroom Monday.

And so it was: The day before, five of Newman’s Seaside culinary students captured the state title at the Oregon ProStart High School Culinary Championship.

It was a repeat performance from the culinary team, which also won last year’s state ProStart competition.

“The kids just nailed it again,” said Newman, who is the chef and owner of Newmans at 988 and Fishes in Cannon Beach. “They just did a great job.”

Seaside juniors Celina Nicolazzi, Garret Rogers, Porter Johnson and Ian Kimbrough and senior Adam Hutchinson beat teams from 16 other Oregon high schools in the one-hour cook off, which was hosted by the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association Sunday at the Red Lion Hotel in Portland.

“Their performance in the kitchen was poised and well-executed,” said Seaside High School Principal Sheila Roley, who attended the competition. “(They had) great communication and they created a product that was beautiful to see when it was done.”

The class’ finished product was a three-course meal featuring a variety of native Oregon foods.

The appetizer was a smoked razor clam chowder with cracker garnish; the entrée was a beef tenderloin Napoleon with Dungeness crab, Hollandaise sauce, a scallion and potato cake and steamed asparagus; and dessert was a candy-capped mushroom ice cream over a Bing cherry and hazelnut bread pudding.

“I was salivating while I was looking at it,” Newman said of Sunday’s spread.

“It looked great,” said Josh Archibald, the executive chef at the Wayfarer Restaurant and a mentor for the culinary class. “I think their execution was better than it’s ever been in practice.”

The team agreed with Archibald’s assessment.

“It went so much better than practice,” Rogers said.

“I think it’s because we had that sense of urgency,” Nicolazzi said.

“We practiced for months and it all came together,” Hutchinson said.

Four team members actually compete in the ProStart competition and one serves as alternate.

The four competing team members must also participate in an additional skills challenge before the start of the three-course cook off: two team members must fabricate an entire chicken and two must execute several knife skills tasks.

The ProStart competition presents several event-specific hurdles to the competitors, including a dearth of cooking space.

“We have to make a three-course menu in one hour with two portable butane burners,” Archibald said.

Beginning in mid-January, the five-person team practiced with “game-like” conditions, positioning themselves at an L-shaped table with two butane burners, just like the competition required.

To ensure they didn’t go over the one-hour time limit, the Seaside team even set their alarm clock eight minutes fast – though they momentarily forgot that small detail in the heat of the moment.

“We were panicking for a second and then we were like, “Oh, we’re good,’” Rogers said with a laugh.


Seaside’s victory in the Oregon competition qualifies them for the national ProStart High School Culinary Championship, which runs from May 3 to May 5 in Minneapolis.

Roley said that discussions have already begun about possible fundraisers to help the team get to Minnesota.

Roley said they will likely plan an event similar to last year, when they sold 75 tickets at $100 apiece to eat the same meal the team served at the ProStart event and ultimately had to turn people away at the door – a testament to the skill of these culinary students.

“Truthfully, it was a great team effort,” Newman said.

To donate to the culinary team’s national championship trip to Minneapolis, makes checks payable to Seaside High School with “Culinary Trip” in the memo line or contact Principal Sheila Roley at 503-738-5586 or sroley@seaside.k12.or.us to see how you can help.


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