After winning competitions numerous times, the Bonney Lake High School Culinary Team is well known at the annual Washington ProStart Invitational, a culinary and restaurant management competition.
This year was no different.
“It’s the weirdest experience. People see the emblems (on our jackets) and they ask you how it feels to be on the Bonney Lake Culinary Team,” said Railey Speck, a sophomore in her first year competing in the statewide competition.
“Bonney Lake High School is culinary royalty,” added senior Gavin McCulley, a student on the culinary team.
The team took second place in both the Culinary and Management categories in the 2017 Washington ProStart Invitational on Feb. 18. The competition was put on by the Washington Hospitality Association’s Education Foundation and was held at the McGavick Conference Center at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood.
For the past 11 years, BLHS’s Culinary Team has participated in the competition, and over time has created quite the reputation. Kahale Ahina, who teaches the team and culinary arts classes at BLHS (including Intro, Culinary I and Advanced Culinary), puts together his team early and begins preparing as soon possible. This year, the 10-person team started prepping in October.
The culinary part of the team included five students: team captain Dalton Workman, Morgan Blackard, McCulley, Speck and Isaiah Berdan. For months, team members worked to prepare their three-course meal.
Their first plate was Yellowtail, a Sashimi-style Hamachi tuna, grapefruit, olives, avocado puree, vinaigrette, micro greens and grated horseradish. The second dish, Snake River Farms American Wagyu Filet, was a seared filet mignon, Parmesan risotto, mixed vegetables and mushrooms. The dessert was a Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with spiced apple, a baked wafer, caramel and spun sugar.
It sounds difficult at first. Now imagine cooking everything in an hour. Now imagine doing it using only two butane burners and no running water or electricity.
But when the Feb. 18 competition rolled around, the culinary team was ready. Upon arrival, it had 20 minutes to set up supplies, then team members waited as other schools cooked before them.
“We were anxious because we were the second-to-last to go,” said Blackard, a junior.
Then, the team got to work, each student taking a role in creating each dish. The team was scored by a panel of judges who award points every 15 seconds, judging teamwork and communication. The team finished with about 20 seconds to go.
“You have to pretty much know how to do everything,” McCulley said about working as a team.
Out of 17 schools, the Bonney Lake team took second place, missing first place by a tenth of a point. On the management side of things, BLHS also took second place. The management team also consisted of five students: team captain Sierra Paternoster, Nate Dunn, Ashley Combs, Hunter Zenisek and Analyse Sandoval.
The team put together a business plan for a restaurant it created called The Kraken, which serves Northwest-sourced food. The plan had to include a write-up of the restaurant’s concept, its floorplan, interior and decor, recipes, menu pricing, photos of the meals and marketing tactics. The team even made T-shirts for the restaurant.
Overall, Ahina and the team were proud of their performance.
I really enjoyed it. It’s a lot of fun. It gives you a lot of creative freedom.
Railey Speck, sophomore at Bonney Lake High School
“I really enjoyed it. It’s a lot of fun,” Speck said. “It gives you a lot of creative freedom.”
“It sets you up to succeed in a restaurant environment,” added Blackard.
Some students plan to go on and work in the restaurant industry, or open restaurants themselves. No matter their plan, Ahina hopes they learn some valuable lessons.
“A lot of people want to win, but aren’t willing to do the work,” he said at the group’s end-of-the-season meeting. “What you put into something is what you get out.”