by Trevor Hass
Every Sunday, at 7 a.m., Avalon Donat, Lizzie Holby, Kailey Johnson, Dan Larom, Mark Swann and instructor Monique Sabby know where they’ll be.
No, not in their beds, sound asleep, but rather in the kitchen at Elk River High School, right inside door H3. Because the students have busy schedules and also play sports, Sunday at 7 a.m. is the best time to meet. They spend hours in the kitchen, crafting their latest concoction and perfecting their signature dishes.
Though the hours are grueling and the work can be exhausting, these five juniors and their teacher wouldn’t have it any other way. They love being part of the ERHS culinary team, and their efforts have earned them a third-straight state championship and a trip to Texas for the National ProStart Invitational from April 29 to May 1.
“The cohesiveness of this team, just who they are as people, is the most rewarding part for me,” Sabby said. “We get to hang out and travel to Texas together and then be together again next year. I wouldn’t trade these kids for the world. They’re outstanding as people, as well as chefs.”
The team’s menu includes Ahi Tuna Carpaccio – which features apple, fennel, chorizo, chili and blood orange – as a starter. That goes for $16, and the main dish – Pan Roasted Wild Acres Duck Breast – costs $29 and has butternut squash bread pudding, fig jam, brussels sprouts, parsnip and duck jus. Dessert costs $15.50 and is a toasted coconut caramel filo. It includes mango sorbet, kiwi, raspberry coulis and garam masala.
Perfecting these dishes has yielded both an enjoyable experience and fruitful results. The team is going to nationals, just like it did last year, and is looking to impress there as well.
“It’s a wild ride, and we are very excited to go to Texas in April,” Donat said. “We hope that we will do just as well, if not better, and show them what we can do.”
Johnson, who was an alternate last year like Holby is this year, also won an individual knife skills competition. She earned a set of Mercer knives as a prize, and she plans to use them in the future.
Holby specializes in spaghetti, Donat prefers pastries, pad Thai pleases Johnson, Swann devours his friend Dan’s enjoyable entrees and Dan has a soft spot for steak. Donat, Johnson, Larom and Swann are all considering cooking as a career, and they know they now have many connections in the industry to help them launch that dream.
“We’re all very passionate about what we’re doing,” Larom said. “After we won state, that showed how passionate we are.”