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Oak Harbor's culinary arts team prepares to serve up another state title

Oak Harbor High School senior and culinary arts team member Samantha Schortzmann cuts up meat during a practice cooking of the selected meal for this weekend’s state competition in Spokane.  - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor High School senior and culinary arts team member Samantha Schortzmann cuts up meat during a practice cooking of the selected meal for this weekend’s state competition in Spokane.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

Sink your teeth into this: a shellfish medley featuring Penn Cove mussels, Manila clams, shrimp, Italian sausage, white beans, kumquats, shallots, sweet pepper, pesto and topped with a seared scallop with a bacon-flavored veil ... and that’s just the appetizer.

Oak Harbor’s culinary arts competition team has selected its menu and is preparing to defend its state title for a fifth consecutive year. The four-member team has been making and re-making the gourmet three-course meal about three times a week for more than a month now to nail down technique and presentation.

“Every time they practice, they critique,” culinary arts teacher Louise Reuble said.

The team is made up of four students from Reuble’s culinary arts class who were selected by a panel of community judges in January. This weekend, they’ll be traveling to Spokane for state, competing against 20 other high schools. At the event, the team will have one hour to make their meal.

Team member Samantha Schortzmann said the most challenging part of the competition will be monitoring the burners.

“We always have something on a burner,” she said.

Teammate Matthew Moore added, “This is the first time we have had three hot dishes.”

In addition to the shellfish medley starter, the students are making a boneless game hen stuffed with duck, cranberries and pistachios, potato puree scented with truffle oil and vegetable pearls for an entree and a warm brie and bosc pear bread pudding for dessert with a fig and honey compote and star anis ice cream. Chef Scott Fraser of Frasers Gourmet Hideaway helps the students come up with a meal and then coaches them along the way.

“He comes in with the bones and through repetition and practice the kids add to it,” Reuble said.

Also traveling to the competition this weekend will be the culinary arts management team, made up of two students and one alternate. That team will focuses on the business side of owning a restaurant. The competition guideline changes annually, but last year the students had to present a portfolio, PowerPoint and display for a new restaurant proposal. The team also tracks the cost of supplies for the culinary team. Last year the OHHS management team also took first at state.

If the teams take first on Saturday, they will move onto to the national competition which is held in Kansas  April 29 through May 1. Last year, the culinary team took second at the National invitational while the management team ranked 17th.

On Sunday, the students hosted a dinner featuring their competition meal for the public to preview at a cost of $40 a plate. Reuble said the meal sold out and had a waiting list. The proceeds from the dinner were put toward this weekend’s travel expenses.

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