MOSES LAKE — Alex Martin said the really challenging part was the timing.
The required dish in the SkillsUSA culinary competition was pan-seared chicken with mushroom sauce, rice pilaf, green beans and glazed carrots. Alex, a culinary student at Moses Lake High School, said his chicken required about half an hour to cook, while the vegetables only took about five minutes. Alex said he was okay on the timing, but something else went wrong. “I think I burnt my chicken,” he said.
The regional competition was held Friday at the Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center. Competitors were required to prepare the meal from scratch, including cutting up the chicken.
Moses Lake High School senior Kaitlyn Logue is the defending state champion, but missed the national competition due to a family trip to Europe. She wants another shot at nationals. But she was afraid the tripped her up – not her best work. “I kind of bounced back,” she said; the cream mushroom sauce might’ve saved her. “My sauce was really good.”
Competitors were evaluated by the judges from the moment they started assembling their ingredients. Judges noted how they held the knife, the consistency of their work; Cristian Prado, Wenatchee, sorted through the chopped onions, checking to make sure he was presenting his best, most consistent work. Judges checked how competitors cut the chicken, cleaned their workspaces, managed their time.
Some competitors had done trial runs. “I’m so tired of chicken,” said Maria Amaya, MLHS. Maria and her team practiced, a lot, prior to the competition. Maria thought it paid off. “I think I did pretty good.”
Cristian was at his first competition, and thought maybe he could’ve used a little more practice. “Honestly, not the best,” he said, when asked how he did. He had practiced, but “not for a high pressure thing like this.”
Ismael Pelecastro-Hernandez, Yakima, was pretty confident. “I think I did excellent,” he said. Cooking the dish was only part of the competition – students also had to present it to its best advantage. Ismael got his plates out the door with a couple of minutes to spare. Getting the mushroom sauce to his taste was the most challenging part, he said, but once he was satisfied the rest was pretty easy.
Angel Sota, Yakima, had a hard time getting the rice like he wanted. “I think I did all right. I don’t think I did the best.” Competitors had two and half hours to finish, and that was a killer. “The nerves get to you,” Angel said.
The winners move on to state competition, and the state champion will advance to national competition.
Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.