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Rockwall ISD Culinary Arts team advances to nationals

(ROCKWALL, TX – April 14, 2017) The Rockwall ISD Culinary Arts team claimed first place and $17,000 in scholarships for each team member at the Texas ProStart Invitational state competition last month. The win advances the team to the National ProStart Invitational in Charleston, South Carolina on April 28-30.

Led by Culinary Arts instructor Cody Hayes, the team consists of five students from both Rockwall-Heath High School and Rockwall High School – Alexa Nunez (RHHS); Kali Stampfer (RHS); Madi Alexander (RHS); Preslie Mann (RHHS); Emily Martin (RHHS).

“Their work ethic is unsurpassable compared to students I’ve had in the past. Their determination and confidence has helped them a lot. They’re just driven to excel at what they do,” Hayes said.

The team will go up against 49 other teams across the country in the national competition later this month. The top five teams in each event (culinary and management) will receive trophies, medals and scholarships to further their careers in the restaurant and foodservice industry.

As in the state competition, the teams will be charged with completing a five-star three-course meal in 60 minutes, but there’s a catch – they will only have two portable burners at their disposal. That means no ovens, no mixers, no electricity or running water. Each team must submit two identical appetizers, two identical entrees and two identical desserts – one for the tasting judges and the other for display. The meals are all prepared in front of judges consisting of the most renowned chefs across the country.

The Rockwall ISD team wowed the judges at the state competition with a three-course meal consisting of a butter-poached lobster as the first course, a “Tribute to Lamb” for the entrée with lamb prepared in three different ways, and for dessert – a peanut butter mousse with chocolate glaze and banana rum sauce, and lightly toasted homemade meringue.

Hayes said the girls performed extremely well within the high-intensity, high-pressure environment at the state competition.  “The judges definitely mean business, and for the girls to be able to handle that kind of pressure speaks volumes for them.”

The RISD Culinary Arts team is selected from tryouts held in the fall each year. Hayes said he has held tryouts in the past where all students in his culinary arts classes were invited, but this year he decided to only open tryouts to students in his Advanced Culinary Arts class. He had around 15 students try out for the team this year.

Hayes said in his many years of teaching the Culinary Arts program at Rockwall ISD, this was the first time he’s had a team made up of all girls.

“These girls are tough, they are unified. The thing I love about them is that they are receptive to criticism because they want to get better. They’ve been fantastic and it’s been a joy to be around them,” he said.

By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News. Photo courtesy of Rockwall ISD. 

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