Fort High pair enjoyed cooking competition

Raylene Smith and Cassie Caul, Fort Frances High School students currently enrolled in the hospitality course there, had the chance to travel to Thunder Bay last month to compete in the culinary arts portion of the regional skills competition at Confederation College.
The pair had earned the right to attend the competition after placing first in a cooking contest within their hospitality class.
Given the dual-credit program with the local college only has been offered since last year, Smith and Caul were the first from Fort High to enter the competition.
“It was scary,” admitted Caul, noting their allotted time of three hours had seemed like plenty of time until they got down to the last hour.
“Then things got a little hectic,” she said.
Not only did Smith burn her hand, but the duo realized they had made an error with the French onion soup and had to do it again.
“It was a lot of fun, though,” Smith stressed. “We had to wear the little chef hats and everything. It was neat.”
Eleven other teams were taking part in the competition and the girls noted some were returning for their second year, which was a bit intimidating.
But they explained mentors were available if they needed advice or had questions about the equipment.
The teams had to create five identical plates according to the menu—French onion soup and a main course, including chicken (boneless, skinless breast), one starch preparation, and one vegetable preparation.
In addition, prior to the practical portion of the competition, the teams also participated in a theoretical assignment.
The practical component was critiqued on the presentation and creativity, as well as taste, appearance, nutrition, and methods.
Smith and Caul placed third and will receive bronze medals at an awards ceremony in May, where the top three in each skilled trade and technology competition will be recognized.
Other contests will be held in the areas of graphics, welding, carpentry, automotive service, video production, and hairstyling—just to name a few.
“I didn’t think we were going to place,” Caul admitted.
“Everyone’s plates looked really good,” echoed Smith.
But Kelly Connor, a teacher with the hospitality program here who attended the competition with the pair, indicated the local team did a good job.
“There is a lot of time pressure. You really only have 10 minutes to get it out there,” he said. “I think they also got a lot of good hints and tips.”
Smith, who is thinking about a future career in the culinary arts, agreed the cooking competition was an excellent experience.
“You learn what it’s like to cook in a restaurant and to have to have orders ready at certain times,” she remarked. “I’d encourage others to go, especially if they want to go further with cooking, so they get a feel for it.”
The regional skills competition events are designed to showcase the technical talents of students from schools across Northwestern Ontario, and in regards to the culinary arts, to prepare students for the cooking trade and entry to employment, post-secondary, or apprenticeship programs.
Caul, who simply enjoys cooking as hobby, said being involved in the competition probably would make others more interested in the cooking trade.
“It was all about fast-paced cooking in a big kitchen. It was crazy, but I had a good time,” she indicated.
Both stressed Connor is a good teacher for the local hospitality program and that they felt prepared for the competition.
Connor, meanwhile, said he hopes the course runs again next year because he’d like to send another local team to compete in the regional skills competition.
“It’s a really interesting experience to take part in,” he enthused.