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OH sending top chefs to national competition
By NATHAN WHALEN
Oak Harbor High School’s culinary arts program hopped beyond the rest of the competition last week with a winning rabbit recipe.
The students, part of Wildcat Catering, brought home two state titles from last weekend’s ProStart Invitational Culinary Competition that was hosted by the Washington Restaurant Association. They won the culinary competition and the restaurant management competition.
The culinary team – comprised of Joanna Leete, Haley Garden, Sara Jackson, Rachael Balasa and Cahle Williams, who was an alternate – cooked a meal they had practiced more than 20 times in the months leading up to the state competition. They prepared seared Ahi salad Nicoise with watercress sauce; rabbit three ways, mole sauce, polenta and poached spiced pears; passion fruit panna cotta, white chocolate mousse, almond tuile and passion fruit fettucini.
Wildcat Catering was the only team of the 16 competing that prepared rabbit.
Jackson said the team wanted to choose a main course that was “out of the box.”
“It’s something we haven’t tried before,” Garden added.
The team was given one hour to prepare their meal, which they completed with 57 seconds remaining on the time clock. They weren’t allowed to use any electrical items during their preparation.
“It’s pretty much everything you do in the real world,” said Scott Fraser, owner of Frasers Gourmet Hideaway. He is also a longtime volunteer at Wildcat Catering.
Balasa said the team worked well and calm as a team while Jackson mentioned the judges struggled to find fault with their meal.
“They told us they had to look for stuff to find wrong,” Jackson said.
Three members of Wildcat Catering – Robert Clemena, Michelle Lambert and Patrick Salgado – teamed up to develop a restaurant concept and business plan that they presented during the ProStart Invitational.
They developed a 10-minute presentation about a restaurant titled “Pacific Rim Tapas.”
Clemena described the project as a “fine dining restaurant that emphasizes a friendly group.”
Food would be shared in small dishes and shared with people at the table.
“We tried to make a menu as diverse and pleasing as possible,” Salgado said.
Clemena described the presentation as “nerve wracking.” They had to memorize the presentation and they couldn’t get a read on the judges impressions while they were speaking.
“They all have serious faces and you don’t know what they’re thinking,” Lambert said.
The teams are busy fine-tuning their craft to be ready in time for the national competition April 19-21 in Baltimore.
They are also raising money to cover competition costs.
Wildcat Catering is hosting a “Baltimore or Bust Dinner” at 5:30 p.m., Sunday, March 24 at the Oak Harbor Elks Club. Cost is $40 per guest.
Space is limited so reserve a spot by March 18 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call 279-5760 for more information.