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Cooking up success

Baking their way to nationals
Katie Hamilton ’24
Left to right-Audrey Larson ’24, Gabby Vosburg ’24, Nate Barman ’24. and Landon Tombley ’25 poses for a picture after winning the competition.

Grosse Pointe South Culinary Instructor Nickolas Lopez just led a group of his students to first place in the culinary category at the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association Prostart State Competition. After the team’s victory, they were invited to nationals in Baltimore, Maryland to compete again.

In early March, Lopez and students Audrey Larson ’24, Gabrielle Vosburg ’24, Meredith Arendoski ’24, Nathaniel Baerman ’24 and Landon Trombley ’25 attended the MRLA Prostart State Competition. At Prostart, students from different schools all over Michigan compete in seven different categories to display their restaurateering skills, such as culinary, management, knife cuts, nutrition, pasta, tabletop design and cake decorating.

“You have an hour to run your meal, present it and get it scored,” Meredith Arendoski said. “There’s three or four of these teams doing all of this at once, so it’s very chaotic and stressful.”

The teams are also judged throughout the competition based on their communication skills, sanitization and overall teamwork.

“I was so nervous and my hands were shaking so bad,” Arendoski said. “I thought that I was going to accidentally knock something over.”

Nerves were especially high because this was the first time that Arendoski and her teammates had ever participated in a culinary competition, and the team that they were competing against was last year’s national champion. Despite these disadvantages, their team placed first in the culinary category and received a total of $20,000 in scholarships as well as an invitation to the national competition this April.

“I was really excited and overwhelmed with emotion when we won,” Arendoski said. “We were aiming for first place, but didn’t know what to expect, so it was kind of surprising.”

The culinary team put a lot of effort into preparing for the competition. They put in roughly 200 hours in the kitchen after school every day of running the competition repeatedly, and have come a long way because of their preparation.

“When we first started these competitions, we left with nothing but tears in everyone’s eyes and quiet bus rides home,” Chef Lopez said. “We’ve grown a lot and had to learn from each competition.”

The preparation for nationals is even more intense, but the team is even more ready now that they have had some competition experience.

“The other teams had prior experience at culinary competitions and we kind of went in blind last time, so it’s nice to know how everything is going to be set up and run now,” Audrey Larson ‘24 said.

The competition was a great learning experience for students who want a career in the culinary or hospitality industry, and there are even more possibilities at nationals.

“We’re even more prepared now after going through the competition,” Larson said. “We have more hope and a better shot at winning nationals now.”

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Tatum Eschenburg '25
Tatum Eschenburg '25, Staff Writer
Tatum Eschenburg ’25 is going into her first year on Tower staff. Her love for writing pushed her to take Honors Journalism, and now she’s moving up. Eschenburg is a member of Peer to Peer, enjoys connecting with the other students at school and is excited to engage with the Tower staff. She is ready to help the staff make this year of the Tower great and write stories she is passionate about and try different social media. Eschenburg is ready to take on the Tower this year and is eager to write stories. “I really like reading and writing, and English in general,” Eschenburg said. “I am really excited to voice my opinion and write opinion stories this year.”

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