Instead, that’s the menu a group of students from Grand County High School whipped up March 7 during a competition in Salt Lake City. The GCHS students joined competitors from 35 other Utah high schools that offer Pro Start programs, which educate youngsters in the culinary arts.
Grand County High’s adviser, Jennifer McKay, took five students to the contest held in the state capitol rotunda, where legislators got to see what the teens had learned. Those making the trip for Grand were team captain Cassie Lema, Dakotah MacFarlane, Juniper Roman, Troy Dezelsky and Jeremiah Windsor.
This is only the second year GCHS has offered the Pro Start program and the team did not place in the top 10. But McKay said the experience was valuable nonetheless and will help the school become more competitive in the future.
At least one of Grand’s Pro Start students plans to become a professional chef. Lema, a senior at GCHS, said she plans to enroll in a Denver culinary school next fall.
She has wanted to be a chef most of her life, and her grandmother was instrumental in developing that goal because she’s an outstanding cook, Lema said. She added that Pro Start taught her lots of skills.
“I learned cooking techniques,” Lema said. “It goes into depth.”
The Pro Start program also teaches basics such as safety and sanitation, and emphasizes how a prepared dish should look.
“Presentation is a huge part,” McKay said.
Students who complete the two-year program get a nationally recognized certificate. The Utah Restaurant Association oversees Pro Start and McKay said the course is “really big in the state of Utah.”
There is local support, too. McKay said Ye Ol’ Geezer Meat Shop on South U.S. 191 has donated meats for students to use in classes. McKay noted that she is hoping a local chef will act as a mentor next school year to help students design menus and to give feedback.
She added that Pro Start provides a possible career path for teens who don’t want to attend college.
“This way, they can start in a kitchen without being at the bottom,” McKay said. “The restaurant industry is one of the biggest in the country and especially in Moab. It’s a life-long skill.”
McKay honored by fellow advisers
Jennifer McKay’s teaching skills aren’t limited to culinary pursuits. She recently was named Adviser of the Year for Area 3, one of five educational jurisdictions in Utah, for her work with Family Career and Community Leaders of America students.
McKay’s students nominated her and voting was by all the advisers in Area 3.