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South culinary team ready to boil in Baltimore

A moment of jubilation for the Grosse Pointe South culinary team. Chef Lopez (far left) poses with his students after winning the state competition and knocking out last year’s national champion Plymouth Canton Educational Park at the state Prostart tournament in Kalamazoo. ”We took out the defending national champions from last year. So just to get through that team is huge. If we get through the state, we typically do well at nationals because getting out of Michigan is hard enough,” Lopez said. (Photo courtesy of Nikolas Lopez)

After winning the state Prostart Tournament, a competition for high school culinary teams throughout Michigan, South’s culinary team will be competing at the National Prostart Invitational in Baltimore from Apr. 26-28.

Coming off of a first place finish in the statewide competition, the students have qualified to represent Michigan in the National Prostart Invitational. The tournament is a chance for the best high school cooking programs in each U.S state and territory to show off their culinary skills, cooking elite dishes in a scant amount of time.

Foods and nutrition teacher, Nikolas Lopez, said he is in a determined and optimistic state of mind, after defeating last year’s national champions, Plymouth Canton Educational Park.

”We took out the defending national champions from last year. So just to get through that team is huge,” Lopez said. “If we get through the state, we typically do well at nationals because getting out of Michigan is hard enough.”

However, in order to win such a big tournament, the team must be able to create complex dishes with limited space, resources, and time.

“In the Prostart tournament each school forms a five man culinary team where contestants get 100 square feet with no running water or electricity,” Lopez said. “They get one hour to make three high level appetizer entree desserts.”

Among the chefs representing South at the tournament is Gabby Vosburg ’24, who said she is feeling anxious about the tournament due to it being on the national stage.

“I’m kind of nervous because we’re going against the best teams from each state so I don’t really know what to expect,” Vosburg said. “But in the end, it’s an opportunity to overcome your personal anxiety.”

Also traveling to Baltimore is Nate Baerman ’24, who said he has a passion for culinary arts and values the tournament as well as the preparation leading up to it. Baerman sees it as an opportunity to get real world experience with high level cooking and hopes that doing well at the tournament will open scholarship opportunities.

“Personally, it would mean a lot to me, especially because I have always wanted to do something culinary related,” Baerman said. “So winning nationals would lead to scholarships for me and my team and that would be very beneficial for all of us. So it’s just a great opportunity to get some real world experience with cooking.”

When it comes to making the food, the team will have their hands very full. Lopez said the competition is broken up in appetizers, entrees and desserts.

“Primary components on each plate for the appetizer is a three way scallop. We also have a seared scallop frittered and a scallop salad,” Lopez said. “On the entree there is a mosaic salad and a pork tenderloin. As for the dessert, we will need to make a pair and cucumber namelaka.”

To prepare for the onslaught of upcoming culinary challenges, Lopez and the team have taken their responsibilities seriously. Lopez said it takes up to 200 hours of preparation after school.

“So it takes a pretty wild amount of dedication and commitment to pull this off,” Lopez said. “And I’ve told the students too, we’re not better, I’m not better, the other teams aren’t better. It really just comes down to those who invest the wrench time.”

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