The team of Howard County cooking students competing in the National ProStart Invitational last week received praise for their recipes and compliments on their knife skills, but did not place in the Top 5, said Elaine Heilman, the Applications and Research Lab teacher who supervises the team.
"The students did very well," Heilman said. The final ranking won't be known for about two weeks.
This marked the fourth year in a row that the ARL team won the state-level cooking competition, earning the chance to compete at the national level. Last year, the team took fifth place in the national contest, said Heilman, and the students on the team were hoping to do as well or better this year.
Even though they fell short of that mark, team members were so energized by the event that they are already planning next year's competitions, she said.
On the plane Sunday night, heading back from San Diego, "they were already talking about next year," she said. "I said, 'Listen, let's just rest, take a break from all this,' but they wouldn't hear of it. They wouldn't leave me alone."
Team members Tyler Weedon, Alex Morris and Kara Lovalvo, as well as alternate Eric Olean, are juniors and can return next year, but team captain Ryan Meliker is graduating from Centennial High School next month.
The group arrived in San Diego on April 23. Like the other 34 teams in the competition, the Maryland group had 30 minutes to prepare, an hour to cook, and a half-hour to clean up a three-course meal. Their dishes included a crab empanada appetizer, Muscovy duck main course, and a saffron ginger panna cotte dessert.
The competitors are all in the ProStart program, a national high school curriculum that prepares students for culinary and hospitality careers.
"They see themselves now as becoming professional," Heilman said. "That's what the program is designed to do."