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Schweinfurt takes gold at Europe-wide culinary competition

Schweinfurt takes gold at Europe-wide culinary competition
From left, Tyquell Kennedy, Kaitlyn Mayo and Yafreisy Ortiz of the Schweinfurt High School Culinary Arts team work feverishly at a food preparation event at the All-Europe Culinary Faire May 8-10 at Sembach Middle and Elementary School. The SHS squad took gold in two of the competition's six categories.
Photo: Laura Masci, Schweinfurt High School

SCHWEINFURT, Germany — The high school's culinary arts team here competed for the first time ever and earned gold in two categories at the All-Europe Culinary Faire May 8-10 at Sembach Middle and Elementary School.

Eight schools from across Europe competed including teams from Bitburg, Heidelberg, Kaiserslautern, Naples, Ramstein, Vilseck and Schweinfurt. Teams consisted of four students with one alternate.

Schweinfurt's culinary arts team included 10th grader Tyquell Kennedy, Yafreisy Ortiz and Kaitlyn Mayo of the 11th grade, and 12th grader Michael Motto.

The competition consisted of six events. Baumholder took first for the Quiz Bowl and Apple Carving while Ramstein dominated in the Cake Decorating category. Schweinfurt ruled the Knife Skills and Culinary Arts, taking gold in each.

"Who are we going to trust our knives to?" asked competition officials.

Schweinfurt appeared the underdog among all the teams wearing brightly colored and embroidered chef coats and other accessories. Undeterred by their hodge-podge garb, they went in and did their best with $10 economy coats, three pairs of borrowed shoes and million-dollar smiles and attitudes.

Teams competing in Culinary Arts had twenty minutes to gather ingredients and set up their stations. They were then given one hour to cook the entire menu, and an additional 20 minutes to clean up. Teams had to incorporate chicken breast, broccoli and rice into their menus and work within a $25 budget.

"The diversity was amazing. Everyone was so different. All these kids from different schools came together and completely blew the judges away. It was the best experience I've ever had," said Mayo.

Even though each team was out to win they still found a way to interact with one another.

"My favorite part was the interaction we had with all the other schools," said Kennedy. "Everyone took basically the same ingredients and we came up with so many different things. I didn't think so many things could be done with those three ingredients. I loved how teams came up with creative ways around the restrictions of the rules, such as figuring out how to make a soufflé without an oven."

The judges were especially impressed with the communication and teamwork from the Schweinfurt team. They were even more impressed when they learned that one of the SHS cooks, Yafreisy Ortiz, spoke only Spanish.

"When we first started together it was difficult for me to even ask for something as simple as a plate. It took a lot of gestures and talking to each other. Now when I need a plate it appears in front of me. We are four individual people, but when we cook together we are one," Ortiz said.

Breaking the language barrier only strengthened the teamwork

"At first I was scared that the language thing was going to hold us back, but we realized that we had to work even harder together to make it happen and it pushed us to do even better than we would have. It actually made us stronger as a team," Mayo said.

The Schweinfurt High School cooks overcame their underdog status and communication barriers to place first in two coveted categories. These four contestants worked hard for months to prepare for their one chance to be called All-Europe Culinary Arts champions.

"My team's common languages are professionalism, teamwork, and respect. They demonstrate daily what it means to work in a modern kitchen and I could not be more proud of them," said Culinary Arts instructor and head chef, Hana McWilliams.

Editor's note: Erin Bolinger is a junior at Schweinfurt High School and a student in the Career Practicum class. Erin is a contributing writer for the USAG Schweinfurt Public Affairs Office. Laura Masci is a Spanish teacher at the high school.