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Yes, Chef

PCHS Student chef

PARK CITY, Utah –  The rice cakes sizzled while the pork loin braised in its juices as Park City High School students enrolled in Culinary Arts Career and Technical Education Pathway refined a menu for a delicious perfection. As the Culinary Arts teacher calls for attention, students immediately respond with a resounding “Yes, Chef!”.

For the last few months, students taking PCHS’s Culinary II class have been preparing to compete in the 2023 Utah ProStrart cooking competition against other Utah high schools. 

The Utah Restaurant Association, which oversees Utah’s ProStart program, judges students on creating a business plan, menu planning, knife safety, and the taste of the meal. Students prepared a three-course meal consisting of an appetizer, entrée, and dessert in 60 minutes using only two burners and no electricity.

In her second year at PCHS, educator Kari Patterson brings a background of music education and expertise in food service to the Culinary Arts Pathway, laughingly referring to herself as the ‘singing chef.’ 

“One of my goals and passions is to see our students go out and help build our community because we do have so many opportunities out there, and this is a perfect place for them to thrive in their careers,” said Patterson. 

According to Patterson, most students in the ProStart competitive team took culinary arts last year, and some have taken it for several years. The culinary arts pathway is designed to teach students foundational skills like all the classical knife cuts, the mother sauce, all the cooking methods, dry heat, and moist heat combinations.

“They are learning skills that can take them into the workplace, and by the time they complete the entire course, they will have the opportunity to earn industry certifications,” said Patterson. “The reason that CTE is so important is that whether it's their chosen field or another field, they're learning vital, key skills to work together.”

On March 16, 2023, PCHS will send a team of five students to the ProStart competition, which will be led by senior Gabby Hansen and junior Kardin Salem.  

Student Chef“Planning for this competition, we have gone through several different menus before eventually deciding on a Japanese-inspired menu,” said Salem. We selected this cuisine because we can make it elevated and presented in a really appetizing way.”

Salem added that he has taken every culinary arts class that has been available to him since 7th grade at Ecker Hill Middle School. However, he plans on furthering his education in computer science. 

“I have always enjoyed cooking; it is one of my passions, but instead of having it as a profession, I want to keep it as a hobby,” said Salem.

Senior Gabby Hansen credits her trajectory to becoming a pastry chef to her older sister and the opportunities provided by Park City School District’s CTE Pathway, which also began at Ecker Hill Middle School. 

“I love the complexity of cooking, using fresh methods, designing sophisticated presentations - oh, and the hours of being a pastry chef are pretty great too,” said Hansen.

Hansen plans to attend the University of Utah, majoring in Food Science or maybe even the Culinary Institute of America. 

Hansen and Salem both agreed that the greatest thing they learned from Mrs. Patterson is the importance of communication and time management. 

“Time management has always been something that we've tried to master, and it’s something our parents have pushed on us, and it has been really helpful for our future fields,” said Salem.

Additionally, with the expansion of Park City High School, CTE programs such as the culinary arts pathway will have more space and professional-grade cooking equipment to continue building and teaching students at industry standards.  

“We look forward to seeing how great they are going to do with the competition,” said Patterson. “I’ll be proud of them, no matter what the outcome is, because, along the way, these students have learned skills that will carry over into whatever field they go into.”