NAUGATUCK – Tug Valley High School’s Culinary Arts Department has been chosen as one of eight W.Va. schools to compete in the Junior Cast Iron Cook-off Friday, Feb. 5 in Charleston.
The Culinary Arts Department is a part of Tug Valley’s vocational curriculum and is founded by the Pro Start program. Mingo Central High School also has Pro Start as part of their vocational curriculum.
Pro Start is a two year high school program founded by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. 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.”
Jay Roberts, Pro Start instructor at Tug Valley High school stated, “There are about 45 students at Tug Valley in the program. Three will be going to the competition.” Christina Blankenship, Marissa Vance, and Brady Spaulding will be representing Tug Valley High School in Friday’s competition.
Roberts explained that the competition will be judged on a number of criteria including: presentation, accurate cooking methods, sanitation, team work and taste. “There are other requirements for the competition. Each team must consist of two Pro Start students, a student from the agricultural program, the Pro Start teacher, and a cook from the school.”
Other requirements for the competition are that one of the dishes must be prepared in a cast iron skillet, meet school nutritional requirements and feature foods indigenous to Appalachia. “Each team must prepare an entrée, side dish and a dessert and at least one dish has to be prepared in cast iron. Also, it has to be a recipe that could be developed for the National School Lunch Program,” Roberts stated. “The name of the competition is New Appalachian Cuisine and the recipe must evolve from our Appalachian roots,” Roberts continued.
In the competition, students will work with restaurants and resorts throughout the state. “Our students will work with professionals from the Mountaineer Casino and Resort and about 18 other restaurants and resorts throughout the state will be participating,” Roberts explained.
Roberts has been the Pro Start instructor at Tug Valley High School for two years. Prior to becoming the Pro Start instructor, Roberts spent 17 years working in various capacities for the Mountaineer Hotel in roles such as event planning and catering. Roberts also spent 17 years running a catering business in Dallas, TX.
More information about the Pro Start program can be found by visiting the website at www.nraef.org/ProStart.
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2279.)