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Oak Harbor High School Culinary Team heading for nationals

With the clock ticking, Oak Harbor High School students Matt McDonald (left) and Alena Stapel pull together to put the final touches on their winning chimi churri hollandaise sauce.  - Submitted photo
With the clock ticking, Oak Harbor High School students Matt McDonald (left) and Alena Stapel pull together to put the final touches on their winning chimi churri hollandaise sauce.
— image credit: Submitted photo

The Washington Restaurant Association Education Foundation announced today that for the third consecutive year, culinary students from Oak Harbor High School grabbed top honors at the Boyd Coffee ProStart Invitational, held March 8 at Olympia’s South Puget Sound Community College.

The dynamic five-student culinary team earned the competition’s 1st place designation by preparing an elegant menu of seared sea scallop, beef tenderloin with a lobster beignet and rum raisin banana cream pie with coconut foam and chocolate sauce — all while racing to beat a 60-minute timer. The team’s efforts landed them a spot at the National ProStart Invitational April 24 to 26 in San Diego, Calif., where they will compete against other culinary students from high schools across the country.

Oak Harbor’s culinary team includes Alena Staple, Luke Feltner, Matt McDonald, Nick Merrick and Tyler Johnson.

The annual competition gives students a chance to showcase their talents in cooking, knife skills and restaurant management proficiency in front of judges who hold prominent positions in the culinary world.

“Watching these students compete really gives you a look into the future of our restaurants,” said Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the WRA, at Sunday’s event. “It’s amazing to think that the next Tom Douglas or Holly Smith might be competing here today.”

During an award ceremony following the competition, WRA Education Foundation Director Lyle Hildahl congratulated the competing teams on their hard work and encouraged them to continue their studies with focus and enthusiasm.

“What a privilege it is to be in the presence of youthful passion, commitment and nervous energy,” Hildahl said to the students. “Wherever this experience takes you, you are a better person for it.”

Oak Harbor’s win was made sweeter perhaps by a coinciding honor for the class’ mentor, Scott Fraser. In addition to running his eatery, Frasers Gourmet Hideaway, Fraser contributes significant amounts of time and money to mentoring the Oak Harbor ProStart students. The Washington Restaurant Association’s Education Foundation honored Fraser as its Mentor of the Year.

Sunday’s Invitational allowed teams from 21 high schools in Washington to compete for more than $400,000 in scholarships offered by the New England Culinary Institute, The International Culinary Schools (Art Institute), Washington State University, Johnson and Wales, International Air and Hospitality Culinary School and Culinary Institute of America.

Moses Lake High School and Walla Walla High School snagged 2nd and 3rd place respectively in the culinary competition. In the management portion of the contest, Liberty High School in Renton won the top award and also will compete in April’s national Invitational. Newport High School in Bellevue won 2nd place in management, while Chief Leschi School in Puyallup grabbed the 3rd place award.

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