For the eighth year in a row, Bonney Lake High School culinary instructor Kahale Ahina took the Panthers culinary team to the ProStart Invitational.
But this year was different, the Panthers took home first place with a total score of 90.5 out of 105 possible points.
This was the first time Bonney Lake has won first place in Ahina’s eight years as instructor.
The winning team consisted of head chef and captain Emily Rash, Morgan Demich, Romica Watson, Jessica Luckey and alternate Conor Lees.
The edge the Panthers had over the 16 other teams was their unity and preparation which gave the Panthers a strong first impression, Ahina said.
Another thing that sets the Panthers apart from the other Washington teams at the invitational is the support they have.
One key component, Ahina said, is the mentoring the team gets from executive chef Eric Hellner of the Metropolitan Grill.
“Chef Eric has spent countless hours with Bonney Lake High School culinary students both in the classroom and bringing students into the industry for real-time experiences,” Ahina said.
The invitational was held March 2 at the Maribeau Park Hotel and Convention Center in Spokane.
Ahina said the Panthers aren’t going to slow down.
“We are continuing practices to refine our execution of our production plan in preparation for nationals,” he said.
The National ProStart Invitational is May 3-5 in Minnesota.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime for students and my dream for the past eight years to represent Washington at the national competition,” Ahina said. “Top culinary schools offer full ride scholarships to winning teams.”
To prepare for these competitions, Ahina has the team practice like it’s the day of competition.
The team “gets comfortable with the restrictions and pressure of what it is really like,” he said.