A recent culinary competition ended with five Maricopa High School aspiring chefs earning medals for their efforts.
Of the eight contestants the high school sent, five – seniors Josh Burdi, Jessica Stansbery, Bri Herrera and Priscilla Almanza and junior Selena Kirkland – returned home from a competition sponsored by the American Culinary Federation with medals,with Burdi and Kirkland earning bronze medals, Herrera and Almanza receiving silver medals, and Stansbery winning the gold. Stansbery said she’s the first Maricopa student to earn the gold in this contest in several years.
“It was fun; it was a great learning experience,” Burdi said.
For first-time competitors Burdi, Stansbery, Herrera and Almanza, the competition provided a peek at what they could expect if they pursue culinary careers, given how quickly they had to make their dishes and the emphasis on sanitation and presentation. The pressure inherent to the moment didn’t hit Almanza until the competition actually started, while Burdi and Herrera had their stress strike before they entered the kitchen.
“During it, I was really chill,” Herrera said, adding she relied on her training to make her patented cream puffs.
The situation was a little different for Stansbery, who earned a bronze the year prior and was looking to end her second competition with a better result. She was the last person to prepare her meal, which meant everyone who’d already finished, their parents plus every other observer watched her cook up her chicken and roasted butternut squash and put a little more pressure on her performance.
Then came the announcement of who finished in which place that went from the lowest mark to the highest. As the scores got higher and Stansbery’s name remained uncalled, all she could do was remind herself not to let the moment hit her too hard.
“I was like don’t cry, don’t cry,” she said.
With one gold medal down, Stansbery has about three weeks left to prepare herself for the annual C-CAP, or careers through culinary arts program, competition. At stake is a chance to win thousands of dollars in scholarship money so she can continue her training for a culinary career.
Stansbery is the only one among herself, Herrera, Almanza and Burdi who’ll compete on March 10, but she said the more recent contest was a nice way to create a better connection with her less experienced classmates.
“I’m very, very proud of these guys,” she said. “I bonded with each and every one of them.”