Panther culinary to cook in nationals

Not only did the Panther culinary team come away with a state win

Bonney Lake brought the heat to this year’s ProStart Invitational state culinary competition, placing first among 14 schools and earning the right to cook at the national competition in April.

The Panther team consisted of Dolton Workman, Breanna English, Asaiah Berden and team captain Conor Lees.

Lees was an alternate two years ago when Bonney Lake also went to nationals. Last year, the school placed third.

Every year, teams are challenged to make a three-course meal, with two servings of an appetizer, entree and dessert. The real challenge comes from the one-hour time limit and the lack of automated tools; teams are allowed to use only two butane burners, and don’t have access to running water or electricity.

Bonney Lake’s appetizer consisted of seared scallops with bacon, Parmesan chip and pea vine, served with beurre blanc, leek, grapefruit and grapefruit foam and citrus oil.

Their entree was seared Spanish pork cheek served over groats, carrots, pearl onion and celery root, and finished with pickled onions and watercress.

For dessert, the Panthers pulled out all the stops by serving espuma key lime inside a hand-crafted sugar ball over a toasted nut crumble, accompanied with Madagascar vanilla ice cream and finger lime caviar meringue.

“We would be very happy with being in the top three,” coach Kehale Ahina said before the team started showing judges their knife skills. “But we know everyone wants to win the whole thing.”

The team’s kitchen expertise obviously impressed the judges, but it may have been the team’s constant communication and control in the kitchen, along with the spirit they brought forth with teachers and parents in the audience, that pushed them to the top.

“They’ve got the best chemistry as a team unit,” Ahina continued. “I’ve never had a team that got along so well and always have fun.”

Ahina said the team will enhance their menu for the National ProStart Invitational, which is from April 29 to May 1 at Grapevine, Texas.

The team will be hosting a Championship Dinner to raise funds for the trip to Texas. The winning menu will be served April 8 in the Bonney Lake High School commons. Ticket prices have yet to be determined.

The team also placed 5th in the restaurant management competition, where teams demonstrated to judges their knowledge of restaurant management and the foodservice industry by developing business proposals for investors in a new restaurant concept.