From One Chef to Another

Liberty sends its first team to State cooking competition


submitted by Ms. Pizzo

Ms. Pizzo joins Neil Sinclair, Jade Moore, Randall Dennis and Abby Johnson at the ProStart competition in Springfield.

Ashley Haberberger, Reporter

Liberty sent its first team of culinary students to Springfield to participate in a ProStart cooking competition on Feb. 21. The team, led by culinary arts teacher Ms. Pizzo, consisted of seniors Jade Moore and Abby Johnson, junior Randall Dennis, and sophomore Neil Sinclair. 

Out of the 100 schools that offer ProStart, culinary courses made by the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation, only 18 applied to compete in the competition. The winning team is given scholarships and moves onto nationals.

The judging, however, starts before the competition does. Teams check-in the day before, where their ingredients, uniforms, and equipment are checked.

“I had the wrong shoes, so we had to run to Walmart to get the right ones. And when we checked in our products, we actually lost a few points because we got some measurements wrong. They were super strict,” Sinclair said.

submitted by Ms. Pizzo
Neil Sinclair works on preparing food for the competition.

The following day, teams were given an hour to create a restaurant-worthy appetizer, entree, and dessert, corresponding with their theme. While the teams were cooking, five judges walked around, taking notes and asking students questions. Once time was up, their meals were presented to nine chefs, who judged based on taste, presentation, etc.

“It was really stressful, everyone there came prepared and they all looked super professional. They all looked like actual chefs,” Sinclair said.

Competing, however, is no easy feat. Students begin prepping their meal months ahead of time.

“We first got together in November to start coming up with what kind of food we wanted to make and ordered our chef jackets. In January we work on doing each dish together, and in February we start timing it, since you have an hour and only two burners,” Pizzo said.

Liberty’s team grew close and learned a lot of valuable lessons for next year’s competition.

“The other teams didn’t talk very much, but since we spent so much time together, we were really open with each other and got along really well,” Sinclair said. His favorite part of the trip was the time he got to spend with his teammates at Lambert’s Cafe and Bass Pro Shop the night before.

“Missouri has the fourth-largest ProStart program in the U.S., but since we actually tried, I feel that we’re in the top 18 in our state,” Pizzo said. “I’d hire these kids to work in my restaurant, they all worked so hard.”

Both Dennis and Sinclair plan on competing in the competition next year, as they feel this year’s competition was a great learning experience and will help them better teach their future teammates.