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Culinary arts students rise to the challenge in Bake-Off

Published April 29, 2022

Garlic rosemary bread. Fresh herb pinwheels. Amish apple bread.

Those were some of the mouth-watering entries in The Great District 214 Culinary Competition Bake-Off held on April 22.

The Bake-Off began with teams of students in the District’s ProStart advanced culinary arts classes designing recipes in two categories: sweet quick breads and savory yeast breads. Buffalo Grove High School ProStart teacher Maggie Sheehy says students voted on the best breads from each class to advance to the Bake-Off.

Buffalo Grove senior Sergio Medina and his teammates, Jack Cadre and Tyler Davoren, presented an update of his grandmother’s garlic rosemary bread, while an “everything bagel” babka baked by a team from Elk Grove High School—Mayra Mendez, Samantha Rowan and Yolotzy Yanez—took top honors in the savory yeast bread category. Strawberry and peach scones from Rolling Meadows High School students Rachel Malik and Edgar Perez won the sweet quick bread category.

The winning teams will share a $10,000 scholarship to Harper College’s Hospitality Management program.

Also on the competition menu were: matcha almond bread, made by Abby Hill, Grace Root, Emma Ernst and Fiona Degrazia from Buffalo Grove High School; fresh herb pinwheels made by Aiden Hecht, Elise Malter and Vasi Grammatis from Rolling Meadows High School; and Amish apple fritter bread made by Adam Chamala, Ashley Kim and Rori Weidel from Elk Grove High School.

The Bake-Off was the brainchild of State Senator Ann Gillespie, who represents the District’s communities in the Illinois General Assembly. “I like to bake, and won the Chicago Tribune cooking contest in 2016,” said Gillespie. “And I’m a proponent of career and technical education programs. This event showcases those programs, highlights some of our local restaurants and highlights our new library Makerplace. I’m hoping this will be the first of an annual event.”

The Bake-Off was held in the Arlington Heights Public Library’s Makerplace, which opened in September and features a commercial grade kitchen. In addition to Sen. Gillespie, a panel of restaurant industry all-stars judged the student entries—including TV’s “Chopped” star and Scratchboard Kitchen owner Grace Goudie and Rep’s Place owner Mike Reppe.

Judge Kristina Gaardbo, owner of Chicago Culinary Kitchen, said, “Everything the kids did today was delicious; it was a close judging. The technique, thought and skill they put into these show they’ll have great futures in the industry."

The ProStart classes at Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove and Rolling Meadows high schools are the capstone courses in the District’s Culinary Arts career pathway.

Said Gaardbo: “We didn’t have these kinds of opportunities when I was in school. It’s so inspiring that youth are getting into this at such a young age.”

Click here to download all of these delicious recipes!