Culinary Club

Benjamin Martinez and Max Slingerland, members of the Laramie High School Prostart Culinary Club, prepare appetizers for the latest table of guests to patron the club’s fundraiser dinner Sunday night at Altitude Chophouse & Brewery. The students in the club designed, cooked and served their own menu of food for the dinner, which raised money for their upcoming state competition in Casper.

Students from the Laramie High School Prostart Culinary Club put their skills to the test as they ran their own restaurant for the night during their Sunday fundraiser dinner at Altitude Chophouse & Brewery.

Considered one of their largest fundraisers of the year, the dinner helped students gain real-world experience while also showing of the skills they’ve learned in class.

“I thought it would be really beneficial for them — since we had talked about appetizers, entrees, desserts, plating, seating, all of those things — to actually be able to do that in a real setting,” said Kallie Poncelow, culinary arts teacher at LHS. “This is really showcasing their skills and what they’ve learned.”

Students designed the menu, prepped the ingredients and cooked the meals from scratch for the evening while also tending to guests as servers and hosts. Both Kallianne Pierantoni and Alicia Swinford, sophomores at LHS, said their favorite part of the fundraiser was interacting with the different guests throughout the night.

“I’m a people person,” said Pierantoni, who worked as a server during the fundraiser. “Getting to talk to people, smiling, having people tell us how great we’re doing, it’s just a real confidence booster and shows, even though we’re high school kids, we’re able to do this type of stuff.”

Pierantoni added the students worked closely with Altitude to both help the fundraiser run smoothly and to also get some tips for skills like plating before the upcoming state competition.

We came here on Friday to get a tour of the whole restaurant,” Swinford said. “It’s been really fun because we got to experience what it would be like to have this job if I ever wanted to go into it as a career.”

In addition to providing real-world experience, the fundraiser helps the group raise the money they need to compete. The next competition is the Prostart State Competition March 21-22 in Casper. There, students will compete in three categories: restaurant management, culinary arts and baking.

“Kids compete across those [categories] and get to compete against other schools around the state,” Poncelow said. “If they win, they go to nationals and get to compete with kids from all over the world, which is very cool.”

Pierantoni said the management portion of the competition involves students being put in various scenarios mimicking experiences restaurant management would potentially face in the real world.

The culinary portion handles main entrees, while the baking tackles dessert. Swinford, who is planning to compete in the baking competition portion, said the state competition can be pretty intimidating.

“I’ll be making a cake and decorating the cake,” Swinford said. “So, I’m pretty scared for that, because I’m not a cake person — I don’t know how to decorate cakes.”

The class, Poncelow explained, is an advanced level class, which means students had to complete some prerequisite culinary classes before they could participate. She added the class, which comes in two year-long sections, is available both nationally and internationally.

Pierantoni said while she originally joined the class as a freshman to fill an elective, it quickly became one of her favorites.

“I’m actually new to Laramie,” Pierantoni said. “So, when they had this program offered to me signing up for classes, I was like, ‘Oh, well, I definitely have to try it out,’ and it’s been one of the best experiences of my life.”

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