Pro Start Chefs take state and nationals
Three Battle Mountain High School seniors missed their prom this year ” for good reason. The three were part of the four-member Pro-Start Chef Team, and they were competing in the National Championship in Orlando, Fla. during the end of April ” during prom. The team took second at the event. Andrea Knight is the only junior and only female in the group. Brendan Russell, Evan Eves and Matt Thompson are the three senior culinary geniuses ” all boys ” who make up 75 percent of the team.
The team’s chef mentor is Paul Ferzcca from La Tour and at the state and national competitions, the team is judged on two identical dishes that include a salad, entree and dessert. The team must create a menu and prepare that menu within an hour. Teams are provided with two butane gas burners only and cannot bring any battery-operated kitchen gadgets to help out. They’re also judged on product usage, and teams are marked down for any waste of products. “We pre-measure our ingredients before taking them in,” says Russell and adds, “We use about 95 percent of our product where most teams only use about 50 percent.” Teams are also judged on sanitation and presentation. After winning Colorado’s culinary competition, the team made a few adjustments for nationals. “We used a different lettuce in the salad for nationals,” says Eves.
Russell knew he liked to cook after growing up in the kitchen next to his mom. “My mom baked a lot and I was usually there helping,” explains Russell. Russell also held jobs at Z-Deli and Wendy’s in Eagle, where he learned some useful kitchen tips. Then, Battle Mountain nutrition teacher Sharon Wiseman saw some natural talent in Russell. “I was the new kid in class and when it came time to try out for the team, I made it,” Russell says. Russell began his freshman year at the school, after spending his middle school years at the Eagle County Charter Academy. He also played baseball for Battle Mountain. Russell said that Orlando was fun and since the team won at the state level, the state of Colorado paid for the trip out to Florida.
Matt Thompson started cooking during his sophomore year at his part time job at the Blue Moon in Eagle’s Nest. Both of his parents are good cooks and although he hates the pressure at competitions, he loves creating the edible masterpieces. “It feels really good to know that someone is enjoying what I enjoy making,” says Thompson. Thompson came to the valley from Denver, where he started seventh grade at Berry Creek Middle School. “At first I hated it here, but now I’ve grown to love it,” says Thompson. He says his parents have always told him to ‘never give up,’ and his older sister, who’s an English teacher, has also influenced his decisions. “My sister is always there for me. She encourages me to pursue what I want and to never give up also,” adds Thompson. This future chef is deciding between attending culinary school in Colorado Springs or helping to open a new restaurant in Santa Fe.
Born in Vail, Eves is a life-long valley resident and the youngest of three children in his family. His parents are well-known in the valley, with his dad, Stu, owning Eves Print Shop and his mom, Sue, being the teacher (and goddess) for Vail kindergartners at Red Sandstone Elementary. Eves says his dad is a pretty good cook and he’s taught him quite a few things in the kitchen. When asked what got him into the whole cooking thing, Eves laughs, “I heard that girls like a guy who can cook.” He’s right. Eves also likes the competitions and the teamwork it fosters. “With everything else, we are also judged on teamwork and how well we work together,” explains Eves. Eves thinks the culinary experience will help him with his future career in tourism, which he will study next fall at Fort Lewis College in Durango. Eves was on the speech team and worked on the school newspaper at Battle Mountain, which will also help him with his path in tourism. What’s the best advice Eves got from his older brother and sister? The witty Eves replies, “Don’t lie to Mom … because she knows.”
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