by Becky GINOS
CLEARFIELD—Cooking shows and competitions have been dominating TV but one local girl took home the top prize after participating in a culinary program at Clearfield High School.
“Pro Start is a two year culinary program sponsored by the National Restaurant Association,” said Brenda Cross, a teacher at Clearfield High who directs the program. “We work closely with the Utah Restaurant Association. The kids use textbooks from the National Association and there are standards and objectives they have to meet. At the end of the year they have to take a national test then they complete the next year and take another test.”
Cross said there are multiple labs mixed in the course study and the students run a small café for the teachers during lunch at the school. “The kids plan the menu and I buy the food,” she said. “They make it and serve the teachers. We rotate so each week students do something different.”
Isabela Brinkaiw has been a student in the Pro Start program and used her skills to participate on the TeenChef Pro TV cooking show that airs on CW30. “It’s kind of like ‘chopped,’” said Brinkaiw. “We were split into three teams and three or four times the losing team had to send someone to the duels. It was super intimidating to work with a (professional) chef. It was scary because I thought he might send me home.”
For the final challenge, the contestants had to prepare a three-course meal using ingredients in a basket they were given. “I feel like they threw us more culinary curveballs,” she said. “The main dish had to be plated three different ways. We could add to the basket but had to incorporate those ingredients. I mostly made things up in my head. I like pursuing my own ideas.”
Fortunately for Brinkaiw, she survived to the end and was named the champion. She received a four-year scholarship to Johnson and Wales Culinary School in Denver for her efforts.
“It was a super good experience,” she said. “I worked with Chef Logen Crew. He’s very stern but he taught me a lot. My ultimate goal is to become successful and own my own restaurant. My passion for cooking didn’t really happen until last year. I’d always cooked with my mom. Now I’ve learned to just go for it and don’t be afraid to come out of your shell.”