NAUGATUCK – The Tug Valley Pro Start Team took home two coveted awards at the 2016 Junior Cast Iron Cook Off at Marriot Town Center in Charleston, W.Va. at the two day event last weekend.
Tug Valley Pro Start won the “Grand Champion” award. The team also won the top award for “Single Best Course” for their Blackberry Buckwheat Stack Cake. It was the only entry in the competition to receive a perfect score from all three judges. The “Single Best Course” award was noted to, “Steal the show in taste, creativity and technique.” The competition was judged on a number of criteria which included: presentation, accurate cooking methods, sanitation, team work, and taste. In the competition, the team was also required to prepare one dish in a cast iron skillet, meet school nutritional requirements and feature foods indigenous to Appalachia.
For the competition, the Tug Valley Pro Start team prepared “Hatfield and McCoy Pork and Beans” which featured seared pork tenderloin, braised in chicken stock with white kidney beans and a classic medley of savory vegetables and herbs. The team also prepared “Mountain Mama’s Blackberry Stack Cakes” which consisted of W.Va. buckwheat pancakes layered with local blackberry jam infused with lemon zest and garnished with fresh blackberries and crème.
The Tug Valley Team consisted of Jay Roberts Pro Start Instructor, Marlene McDonald Child Nutrition Personnel, Christina Blankenship Tug Valley student, Marissa Vance Tug Valley student, Brady Spaulding Tug Valley student and Katrina Newberry Faculty Advisor.
Roberts commented on the win stating, “The students worked very hard to fine tune their recipes and to improve execution time. I was so proud of them when our turn came in the competition. Their teamwork can only be described as being like the precision and calibration of a finely crafted clock. They finished all courses with time to spare. The tension was finally relieved. Their hard work has brought a lot of positive attention throughout the state to the Tug Valley area and Mingo county.”
In Friday’s event, the Tug Valley Pro Start Team faced off against schools from throughout the state. These included: Carver Career Center, Davis Stuart School, Monongalia County Tech Center, Nicholas County Career and Technical Center and Pocahontas County High School.
Saturday’s event was the professional event. Five teams competed in this event from restaurants and resorts throughout W.Va. Tug Valley Pro Start student Brady Spaulding, was selected to participate with one of the professional teams on Saturday. He assisted the Mountaineer Casino and Resort and Chef Robert Osborn. The casino is located in New Cumberland, W.Va. in the northern panhandle. That team won three awards and came in only two tenths of a point behind first place for Grand Champion in the professional division.
Pro Start is Tug Valley High School’s Culinary Arts Department which is part of the vocational curriculum. Pro Start is a two year high school program funded by the National Restaurant Association. According to the Pro Start website, “Pro Start is one of the most effective industry supported career and technical education programs in the nation, empowering students to achieve long term, successful careers in the restaurant and food service sector.”
More information about the Pro Start program can be found by visiting the website at www.nraef.org/ProStart.