Students Get Cookin’ With Creative Dining Chef Mentor

We’re seeing an unfortunately widespread trend in the culinary industry: a dip in culinary students. Experts see a variety of reasons for this drop in enrollment. For some, seeking a formal culinary education is financially out-of-reach. For others, lack of encouragement has dissuaded them from giving it a shot. Luckily, several industry organizations are working to change that through competitive events that engage potential culinary students early on.

We were proud to sponsor the annual Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association’s ProStart Culinary Competition in March. The statewide culinary competition is a great opportunity for aspiring chefs to put their skills to the test while potentially earning scholarship money for continued culinary education.

One of our own chefs, Coty Seaver, lent his culinary knowledge and expertise to four students from the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency (KRESA) who competed in the culinary competition. KRESA’S programming prepares local high school students for the workforce with emphasis on specific industries. Coty helped the students develop their menu and complete flavor mapping exercises.

For the competition, the four participating students were required to plan a three-course meal with about a month and a half to prepare, including two practice rounds in commercial kitchens at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. During the event, judges—including Creative Dining’s own Jane Newton and Jay Sharkey—rated the students on all aspects of their performance including technique, cleanliness, execution, and more.

The students settled on a unique menu they could cook in an hour and a half to meet competition requirements:

  • Appetizer – Vegan “crab” cakes made from hearts of palm
  • Entrée – Salmon with a pomegranate reduction & yucca root puree
  • Dessert – Crepe cake with fresh strawberries

Ultimately, the students earned 6th place out of 10 competing groups. It was their first time in the competition, but they’re hoping to send students back again next year having learned from this experience. We want to extend our thanks to Coty, Jane, and Jay for donating time and expertise to this event to benefit future culinarians. Competitive events like these help us foster passion in the next generation of culinarians and empower them to seek culinary careers. We also want to thank the students of KRESA for their incredible efforts at the competition!

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