Friday, October 11, 2013

KCKCC Culinary Team wins “David vs. Goliath” Battle Against Nationally-Ranked Olathe North

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- When Chef Mike Chrostowski, teacher in the Olathe Public Schools Culinary Arts Program, approached KCKCC instructors Chef Richard McPeake and Chef Cheryl Runnebaum about doing a demonstration during the American Royal, McPeake had something else in mind.

“We challenged them (Olathe North High School) to a throwdown,” he said. “I talked to each one of my students and picked each for a specific reason. We wanted to divide and conquer.”

The six-person culinary team met the Olathe North squad on the demonstration stage Oct. 5 at the American Royal. Ranked second in the nation, Olathe North was the clear favorite McPeake said, with the crowd rallying behind the group of high school students. Each team had 45 minutes to prepare a protein, side dish and two sauces. Although KCKCC was the underdog, in the end, it was  the team's rack of lamb dish that came out on top.

“We were very much the underdogs,” Runnebaum said. “We are a newer (culinary arts) school and not expected to do anything. The crowd was rooting for Olathe North. It was like a David vs. Goliath type of situation. To win, felt awesome.”

The team included Jeff Leihy, Jeff Sanders, Paula Hollinshed, Tanner Walsh, Irene Fernandez and Tim Ball, who are all in their final semester of KCKCC’s professional cooking program. Sanders said the team only practiced the dish twice before competing on the American Royal stage.

“They are nationally ranked. They know what they want and have this kind of program in high school,” he said. “We were just a group of every day people who came together.”

Walsh said she thinks what made the team successful was their ability to work together.

“We just clicked, like a family. That is the way we functioned,” she said. “You also have to have the ability to change it up. You can always add more, but you can’t take away.”

This is the second “throwdown” KCKCC has won. The program also competed and won against Herndon Career Center’s culinary arts team, which in 2009 placed first in the nation at the ProStart Invitational. Herndon is a technical school in Raytown, Mo.

“We always encourage our students to think outside the box,” McPeake said. “It’s part of being a cook.”

KCKCC’s 36-hour professional cooking program teaches students to master the fundamental skills needed to be a professional chef or to work in the food service industry. The program includes instruction in the classroom as well as hands-on experience in a working kitchen. Topics covered in the program include cooking methods, food production, hospitality and restaurant management and baking and pastry, among others. For more information, contact KCKCC’s Technical Education Center at 913-288-7800.


CAPTION: Six students in KCKCC's Professional Cooking Program recently competed in a "throwdown" against the nationally-ranked culinary arts team at Olathe North High School. All in their final semester at KCKCC's Technical Education Center, the team won with a rack of lamb dish. Team members include, from left to right, front row: Jeff Sanders and Paula Hollinshed. Back row: Irene Fernandez, Timothy Ball and Tanner Welsh. Not Pictured: Jeff Leihy.