Culinary arts students show chops in restaurant contest
The menu features braised buffalo and white chocolate mousse, but the experience will feature much more for a group of students in Jason Gray's culinary arts class.
The group of nine from Eudora, De Soto and the surrounding area traveled Wednesday to Wichita to participate in the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association's Hospitality Cup.
At stake in the two-day event that ends Thursday are scholarships and a chance to win a national competition in North Carolina.
The two-day event lets students test their gastronomic greatness in a series of events ranging from a knowledge bowl to a case study of a tricky professional situation to a final taste test.
"The actual food, the look of the food and the taste of the food is actually just a small part of the score," Gray said.
The contestants will be tested on the appearance, sanitary perfection and originality, Gray said.
The event will be the culmination of months of practice, as current seniors hope to better their third-place showing last year.
Gray said he had more than 20 students from his class at the Eudora/De Soto Technical Education Center who wanted to participate, but because of Gray's personal requirements ---- which included the students to be in good standing in all their classes --
and other scheduling difficulties, the team trimmed down to nine.
The hospitality cup and other skill-based competitions benefit students with busy schedules, Gray said.
"They provide students with something they wouldn't do otherwise," he said.
It also gives the students a chance to meet others in their industry, Gray said.
Eudora High School senior Jessica Kraus met several people during her run at the cup last year.
"When you're waiting for the competition to begin, you meet a lot of new people," Kraus said.
For Mill Valley senior Tyler Collene the competition comes down to one crucial moment.
"About the final 15 minutes, things get pretty intense," Collene said.
The atmosphere wasn't very intense during one of the final practice sessions Monday afternoon.
Collene and Kraus flitted over stoves melting chocolate for the final course of their meal.
In all, the group will serve three courses at the competition beginning with a duck salad stuffed in plum tomatoes followed by buffalo tenderloin and ending with white chocolate mousse served in a milk chocolate bowl with assorted berries.
Kraus said she's confident about the strength of the group's menu.
"I think our menu this year is better than last year's," Kraus said.
While stirring the white chocolate mousse, Collene had a more cautious outlook.
"I just hope when it comes down to the last minute, something we do doesn't fall apart," Collene said.
Results were not available at press time.