Harlem High School culinary students Cassandra Heim (left) and Ashleigh Pangelinan dip strawberries in white and dark chocolate in the kitchen at the school. The students are selling the strawberries around the school to raise money to travel to Chicago to compete in a national culinary competition. Anthony Zimmerman (not shown) is also part of the team.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Like cream rising to the top, Harlem High School's culinary competition team will be sharpening their knives and heading to the Windy City this summer to compete with the best junior chefs in the nation.
By winning regional and state competitions, the three-member team earned the right to compete in STAR events at the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) National Leadership Meeting July 10-15 in Chicago. There they will compete against 50 other teams. Besides cooking their way to glory, students have the opportunity to win college scholarships.
On March 20, Harlem's chefs won the regional competition in Jefferson County, and on April 16, they won first place at the Georgia FCCLA State Culinary Arts Competition in Atlanta.
Members of the team are: Cassandra Heim, a rising junior; Ashleigh Pangelinan, a rising senior; and Anthony Zimmerman, a rising senior.
Heather Hampton, a rising sophomore, placed silver in region and bronze in state competition in the entrepreneur junior STAR event competition.
The team's ascent could be described as a Cinderella story.
This is the first year Harlem High School's professional kitchen has been in operation. Barbara Howard has been teaching the professional foods course Pro Start for only three years.
A close-up view of the Harlem High School culinary class students hand-dipped strawberries in white chocolate.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
While Anthony and Ashley have each been taking Pro Start for two years, Cassandra was still in an introductory course. The team that was originally slated to go to the regional competition fell apart because of illnesses, and this group of students stepped forward to serve in their place, Howard said.
And much like Cinderella needed a ball gown and carriage, the team needs to raise $8,000 to get them to the national competition. In the last days of school, culinary students were selling chocolate-dipped strawberries and cake slices at $1 apiece to raise money.
At competitions, the students are given recipes they've never seen before and have 60 minutes to prepare a main dish, side dish, dessert and salad. The menu at the state competition was: spring garden salad with a raspberry vinegarette dressing, lemon dill chicken, sauteed squash and tempting apple trifles.
"They have to sit down and decide who's going to do what, what equipment they are going to need and the process they are going to use to get there," Howard said.
The Harlem High team beat seven other teams at the state competition to earn the right to go to the nationals.
"They ran out of time. They didn't get to the dessert, but the others had raw chicken. The judges said our main entree was done to perfection," Howard said.
Three judges rated them on appearance (they had points deducted for wearing black pants, instead of checked ones), planning, tools and techniques, sanitation and safety, teamwork, presentation, taste and temperature and garnish.
Even Howard admits she was "shocked" to win the state competition and a chance to compete at the national level.
"This is a first for me. It's kind of scary," she said. "This is a new thing for us. We're the first ever to do this, and for it to be Harlem is wonderful."
Here are Harlem's culinary team members:
Cassandra Heim: Even though she's new to the program, Cassandra said she often cooks for her large family, including an aunt and a grandmother who live next door. She especially likes baking pastries and desserts. Her favorite Food TV chef is Bobby Flay. Cassandra, 15, is the daughter of William and Phyllis Heim of Grovetown.
Ashleigh Pangelinan: Ashleigh, 17, is the daughter of Ramon and Wilmoth Pangelinan of Harlem. Her sister cooks on a Navy aircraft carrier.
"I was so excited," she said of their win. "I love cooking for Ms. Howard. I beg to stay here and get out of class to help her. This is the biggest thing I've ever done. It really means a lot," said Ashleigh, who is the FCCLA president.
She said she frequently watches Emeril Lagasse and is often asked to cook by her family, particularly by her stepfather, who is a police officer in Savannah.
Anthony Zimmerman: Anthony, 18, is the son of Michael and Sandra Williams of Grovetown and Clark Zimmerman and Mary Morris of Augusta.
"I'm proud of myself, but it's going to be hard to raise that much money to go. I was excited," he said.
Baking cakes and cookies is his forte. He said he cooks for his family every day, except for those days he is working at Pizza Hut in Grovetown. His favorite Food TV celebrity chef is Emeril Lagasse and the show Iron Chef.
"Looking at them now, though, you never see them wash their hand," he said.
Anthony said he hopes to attend Johnson & Wales University after he graduates.
If you would like to help the team, send donations: Harlem High School, c/o Barbara Howard, 1070 Appling-Harlem Highway, Harlem, Ga. 30814.
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