- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - The best food in Wyoming these days actually might not be in a restaurant.

Down the hall, around a couple of corners, in a sewing room at Glenrock High School, three basketball players and a wrestler - all seniors - are exhibiting calm, winning teamwork.

The 2014 Wyoming ProStart champions, who defeated 10 teams from all sizes of high schools this month at the competition sponsored by the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association Education Foundation, are preparing for nationals in early May in Minneapolis.

Today, they are in their black chef’s jackets, working at two gas burners set on portable banquet tables.

Kolby Kuhlman is pan-searing an 8-ounce filet of ostrich, which will be served with homemade cherry barbecue chutney.

“I saw it in a meat catalog, and it looked kind of cool to do,” Kuhlman said of ostrich. It’s flown in from New Jersey, at $19 for an 8-ounce filet (not including shipping costs).

Logan Buettgenback is resting roasted red peppers in a plastic bag, waiting to peel the skins. Then, he’ll finely dice the flesh of the peppers and add a balsamic drizzle to garnish his polenta squares made from scratch, which accompany the ostrich entree.

To make the polenta, he first minces garlic and rosemary, chiffonades basil and “sweats” it in a mix of olive oil and butter, then adds the cornmeal and Parmesan cheese.

Team captain David Parkinson keeps the four on track, calling out time left in the hour-long competition and inquiring about how each is doing and whether help is needed.

In the competition, the team has an hour from start to plating, with judges peppering them with questions and crowding the table while they work.

Parkinson is also in charge of the smoked salmon Benedict appetizer, which includes a pesky hollandaise sauce.

“Hollandaise is one of the hardest sauces ever, because it’s hard to get cooked and thick without curdling,” he says as he stirs the lemony egg yolk and butter mixture.

Team adviser Patrick Hopper saw a new technique on a cooking show, and Parkinson tries it for the first time during Monday’s class.

“Apparently there is a trace amount of water in an egg, along with the white and the yolk, and if you crack it into a fine sieve first, it eliminates the water from the white, and it holds its shape better in the simmering water,” Hopper said.

Parkinson drains the egg first, and the finished poached egg is tiny and neat and nearly perfectly round, just the right size for the small English muffin toast.

The salmon is smoked in an aluminum foil bag made for oven smoking and is the perfect note to the egg and hollandaise that’s smooth and not too lemony.

Kyle Lee is the dessert specialist, crafting first the molecular caviar garnish that has become the trademark in each of Glenrock’s previous ProStart menus.

This year, it’s made with lime green Hawaiian Punch, and the result of the scientific concoction that changes from liquid to gel shimmers like round peridot gems as it garnishes the dessert plate with a cookie basket holding zesty citrus curd.

Although none of the four aspires to continue in a kitchen professionally, teacher Candace Stoll reminds them that the skills learned in her classroom are perfect to impress a date or make a little pocket money while in college.

“You never know when you’ll need some of this,” she laughs.

The boys will spend about $4,000 getting themselves and their equipment to Minneapolis for the May competition. Two fundraisers are set for April to assist them.

___

Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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