Restaurant and Lodging Association host Student Cake Competition
Ready for the Food Network?
Ready to start expanding their post-graduation options with the possibility of a culinary career?
This past week, an A-list crowd piled into the grand ballroom at the Casa Marina Resort to support the ProStart Culinary Arts Program, a county-wide educational strategy to ensure the future success of the restaurant and lodging industry by molding young minds to believe they are the next Chef Luis Pous!
Santiago’s Bodega’s Jason Dugan, The Square Grouper’s Lynn Bell (was there with her son Joey at her side), and a host of other famous faces from the restaurant scene including Richard Hatch, Bobby Mongelli, Len and Dani Johnson served food and encouraged the maturing culinary prodigies.
The islands’ chefs dished the food and the students dished dessert.
Senior Britney Dupree says, “Actually I’ve been watching Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes
That’s when I started to want to learn to make better cakes and make them creative. The shows inspired me.”
Her “Black Magic,” Hershey Kiss chocolate cake didn’t make it to the table after she accidentally bypassed the Baker’s Joy!
She says with a smile, “Which, I guess… is a common mistake.”
One of Key West High School Culinary Instructor, Holly Bell’s mission with the Evening of Libations and Tastings, was to bring out the best bakers, “I took my advanced kids and said, ‘Hey we need cakes!’ They all had different ideas and I let them do what they wanted,” and she let them interact with those who’ve found success through sautéing signature dishes.
But, like any educational challenge, her main obstacle is time. She has 125 students in and out of her classroom kitchen daily for 50 minutes, which is barely time to trim a bird or bake a batch of pre-made Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls.
She shares part of her success story and her vision, “At my technical high school Juniors did the prep and cleaning and the Seniors cooked. We were there half a day in our uniforms with our knives which is where I want to get this program. If I can have just half a day with kids in uniform, 20 serious kids in the morning and 20 serious kids in the afternoon, I really could be making an impact. The program would benefit greatly if there was an academy type structure. Right now I have 50 minutes. It’s hard. You can’t even finish a cake in that time.”
Enter Lynne Hernandez, the South Florida regional director for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association who organized the event.
“What we’re trying to do is sustain the future of our industry for both our restaurants and hotels,” said Hernandez. “100% of the funds we’re raising is going directly towards the students. We work with the teachers to find out what their needs are; whether its supplies in the kitchen, scholarships, textbooks or curriculum.”
According to Bell, the new textbooks are ready for consumption, but have yet to be ordered – and the cost is a bitter-sweet $6000.
“That’s what we’re here to do,” explains Hernandez. “Support the students and the teachers and their mission and what they’re trying to do.”[pullquote]“I made a German chocolate cake with coconut rum and chocolate. That’s about it. As I go along, I throw together whatever I think will be good.” ~ Brianne Hetzel-Gayle[/pullquote]
Which also means setting the aspiring chefs up with interviews and internships at some of the highly acclaimed establishments on the island. Dupree just came out of the kitchen of John Correa’s Café Sole on Southard Street.
She says enthusiastically, “I actually got to experience the ‘real kitchen!’” Dupree spoke about the roller coaster pace of a lunch and dinner rush, and how to de-vein shrimp.
“I haven’t learned how to clean fish yet, but I’m trying to get there!”
Hernandez said, “This is an opportunity for them to stand toe-to-toe with our celerity chefs and be able to shadow them and assist them. That’s what makes the possibility of having a culinary career real.”
FRLA board member and general manager of the Hog’s Breath Art Levin said popular cable television shows have elevated interest by promoting celebrity chefs. He says one of out every four students will spend time in the hospitality industry.
“The shows get people looking differently at culinary sciences,” Levin said. “They may enter as a line cook and progress to management or end up in the accounting department of a large hotel, or even begin creating ice sculptures! There are so many artisan outlets and in this industry there are endless options.”
Dupree, a Senior who says the spatula is her favorite tool of the trade, has to devote a year to the kitchen upon graduation. She’s already interviewed at the Key West Hyatt Resort and Spa and has her sights set on securing a spot at the prestigious Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island.
“I want to be a top-notch chef and own my own restaurant probably named ‘The Dupree!”
To learn more about the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association call Lynne Hernandez at (305) 598-FRLA (3752) or email [email protected]. The culinary students only spent about two days prepping for this showing. All of their cakes were auctioned off and the event brought in a towering three G’s!