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Spartan culinary students reach top 10 in national competition

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter

A group of students and staff from WMRHS took on Washington DC last week where they competed in a culinary competition. Front row, L-R: Reilley McGee, Macee Smith, Danica Watson, Nicole Gross, Erin Johnston Back row, L-R: Dom Berry, Hunter Judge, Zeke Pribbernow, Hunter MacLeod, Garrik Berry, Matthew Holland. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
May 22, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Another big 'WOW' moment has come from students from the White Mountains Regional High School. Last week, students from the school's Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts programs traveled to Washington, D.C. to compete in the 2019 National Pro Start Invitational in the categories of Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management and Design after winning the state title in both categories back in March. The culinary team placed eighth out of 46 states competing. The highest any team from New Hampshire has placed.

The Spartan menu began with an appetizer, duet of quail. The entree was a buttermilk crusted rainbow trout and for dessert the team made a pliable mango curd with mango relish and hazelnut crumble.

Student chef Garrick Berry said, "This was an unbelievable experience for our culinary team. Preparing a meal with some of the best high schoolers in the United States was an honor. We worked so hard and it paid off."

The students are coached under the direction of staff members Chef Matthew Holland and Reilley McGee who are both Spartan Alumni.

Holland said, "The students prepared, planned and fine tuned their routines, concepts and menus since the state level competition and really felt prepared to give the State of New Hampshire its bests showing at the yearly High School event which is considered the premier competition for Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management in the country."

Holland explained, "Students, mentors, educators, families and friends traveled from 46 states to the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. to watch the future of the industry battle it out in a true test of industry skills, competence and knowledge."

Holland said the culinary team presented a three course meal featuring foods and flavors indigenous to New England's forests, streams and pastures paying homage to their proud New England roots and heritage while also keeping seasonality and sustainability in mind.

"The Spartan Hospitality Team presented their team designed and developed concept restaurant they so cleverly named 'Home' to a panel on industry executives, entrepreneurs and educators welcoming them to 'Come Gather at our Table' with a design routed in classic New England farm house style, flavor and flair," said Holland.

The hospitality team placed 22nd.

Senior Hunter MacLeod, a member of the hospitality team, said, "This was quite the experience. We learned so many new things about the industry and how to apply them to ourselves. The judges gave us great feedback. The time in D.C. was well spent and we were able to experience so many cool things. All in all, we represented not only our school but our state incredibly."

The competition began with a large scale almost Olympic like opening ceremony according to Holland, where the teams were introduced to a packed banquet hall full of their teachers, coaches, mentors, friends, families, judges and industry professionals, followed by a nice food reception.

On the following day, the students competed with 25 other states in a time staggered format.

Holland explained how things worked, stating "The competition is spread out over the course of two contest days in order for accurate assessment and critique to be given to the competitors. After an hour of cooking their hearts out the students received some very insightful and positive feedback from their judging panel. After cleaning up and packing up their tools and equipment the entire Spartan crew jumped into to some business like attire and were off to the US Capital building where they were treated to a tour thanks to the approval of New Hampshire's US Sen. Jeanne Shaheen."

On May 10, the Restaurant Management team competed pitching their concept to a panel of industry judges in an almost Shark Tank style format.

Holland explained, "Seven rounds of challenging questions ranging from concept, critical thinking, marketing tactics and human resources were presented to the team and they were expected to respond as if they were already a seasoned veteran in the industry. Immediately after, the team was summoned into a side room where a panel of roughly ten judges were awaiting them to provide immediate feedback. The judges were very impressed with the teams concept of 'Home' and generously complemented the team on their charisma, idea, execution and public speaking skills."

Holland said after the competition, students were treated to more tourist attractions.

"It was nice for our students to experience the wonderful history, culture and diversity of our Nations Capital. They were able to see the White House, The National Mall and Monuments, The Smithsonian Museum of American History, The National Zoo and Arlington National Cemetery and the Ceremonial Changing of the Guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier."

The culinary team includes Erin Johnston, Hunter Judge, Garrik Berry, Zeke Pribbernow and Macee Smith. The restaurant Management team consists of Dominic Berry, Danica Watson, Nicole Gross and Hunter MacLeod.

Garnett Hill
Martin Lord Osman
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