The Pocahontas County High School ProStart team, from left: Sydnee Butcher, Kayla Sharp, Amber Pritt, Jocelyn Sharp and Lydia Tallman, practice the three-course meal they will make at the West Virginia HEAT Hospitality Cup in Charleston next week. At left, for the first time in competition, teams are allowed to wear chef’s jackets with sponsor logos. Sponsors of the ProStart team include P&B Trucking-Timber, Chris Taylor Timber, LLC, Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Good Life Financial and Snowshoe Mountain Resort. S. Stewart photos

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

When things get hot in the kitchen, the Pocahontas Coun-ty High School ProStart team doesn’t get out – instead, the five young ladies rise to the challenge and create something award winning.

At least, that’s what they plan to do March 6 at the annual West Virginia HEAT Hospitality Cup in Charleston.

The team – senior Amber Pritt and juniors Lydia Tallman, Sydnee Butcher, Jocelyn Sharp and Kayla Sharp – must prepare an appetizer, entrée and dessert in an hour, using just two butane burners.

With just enough assistance from their instructor, Teresa Mullen, to get them through, the team has planned the menu and timeline they must follow to win.

“We’re actually not allowed [to help them],” Mullen said of the instructors. “The students have to create their own menu. We’re only allowed to guide them in choices. I can say, ‘that probably won’t work, but if that’s what you want to do…’ We’re not allowed to choose anything. They have to choose their own menu items. They have to do all their recipes, their menu pricing, all of it, themselves.”

For the Hospitality Cup, the team must choose a menu that does not exceed $75 after the food cost percentage is added. Mullen said the rule is helpful because it makes the competition an even playing field for all schools.

“Besides that, it’s up to you [what you do],” she said. “It’s all about what you can fit in an hour and what your students are capable of coming up with.”

The team began working on the menu and prep for the competition after Christmas break and is still perfecting the cook time and recipes as the event gets closer.

Butcher is the team leader which means she monitors the other four as they cook and makes sure they stay on schedule and all the food is just right.

“I have this timeline,” she said, referring to her clipboard. “I just keep track of this timeline and make sure that they are keeping in time and that they’re going to finish on time. I make sure that they’re doing everything right, and I taste their food to make sure it doesn’t need anything.”

The team is tight-lipped about the menu they are preparing, but going by the aromas coming from the work station, they are definitely on a winning track.

Mullen said the team will compete with 13 other schools.

Along with the culinary team, ProStart also has a management team which will compete in a restaurant management event. The team must create plans for a restaurant – including style of food, menu and rules for operation.

“This is only the second year we’ve ever done it,” Mullen said. “Management is a lot of paperwork, and I’m more of an ‘in the kitchen’ person. They’ve done a great job so far. They’ve got a really great idea.”