Photos by Ty Swenson
West Seattle High School chefs-to-be (from left to right) Sarah Rosenthal, Garrison Smith and Chance Stubblefield pose with acclaimed chef and Food Network star Maneet Chauhan during a cooking competition at the school on May 8.

UPDATE: West Seattle High School chefs-in-training get big time exposure cooking for celebrity chef

Sarah Rosenthal emerges victorious in cooking competition judged by Maneet Chauhan; Now competing for the title of Top Teen Chef nationally

Update for May 24
West Seattle High School Student Sarah Rosenthal, winner of the Pro-Start Cooking Competition covered by the Herald on May 8 (full story below), has been selected for the final three to compete for the title of Top Teen Chef in the U.S.

Rosenthal was competing with 63 students across the country for the chance to compete for the title, and the winner will cook with renowned chefs at the White House (yes, that White House).

The update comes from Rosenthal's culinary arts teacher at WSHS, Danielle Henry.

"I am so proud of Sarah and can’t wait to see her compete in the next round!," Henry proclaimed.

Original story on May 8
The meals generated at public schools are generally the butt of many jokes, with gummy mashed potatoes and mystery meats adding to the negative stereotype. May 8 at West Seattle High School was a major departure from the norm as three talented students and chefs-to-be battled against each other in creating gourmet meals for celebrity chef and Food Network star Maneet Chauhan.

The winner of the Pro-Start Cooking Competition not only received a full set of professional knives, but will also be in the running for an invite to cook with top-tier chefs at the White House.

WSHS students Sarah Rosenthal, Chance Stubblefield and Garrison Smith were chosen by their fellow culinary class students and teacher, Danielle Henry, to compete in a fast-paced environment modeled after the popular Food Network show “Chopped” that gave them 40 minutes to create their dishes. Chauhan, on a 21-city tour promoting her new book “Flavors of My World: A Culinary Tour Through 25 Countries” while judging high school students’ dishes, is often a judge on the show.

Celebrity chef and Chopped judge Maneet Chauhan
Celebrity chef and Chopped judge Maneet Chauhan

“Start cooking!” rang out and the three chefs whirled around their stations, bringing advanced technique, regional ingredients and unusual flavor combinations to life. Their mission: create a “contemporary American” dish.

WSHS chef Garrison Smith breaks down herbs for his dish

Chance Stubblefield cuts morel mushrooms for his meal

Sarah Rosenthal inspects her dish components

Cooking under the pressure of a clock is one thing. Cooking under a clock while 100 fellow students cheer you on (including the cheerleading squad and band), as a Food Network television crew puts microphone booms and cameras in your face, and as culinary icon Chauhan, a James Beard Award-winning chef, asks about your dish and offers encouragement? May as well have been inside a pressure cooker.

Chauhan gives Rosenthal's pesto a whiff while a Food Network camera crew lurks behind

West Seattle High School band members, cheerleaders and students cheered the competitors on

For Rosenthal, Stubblefield and Smith, however, the spectacle did not seem to faze them in the slightest.

While professional chefs on “Chopped” are known to occasionally not finish their dishes in time, the three had no issues, pulling their meals and artistic plating together with a few seconds to spare.

Smith's finished swordfish plate

Presenting their dishes to Chauhan and two other culinary experts was next. Smith created swordfish with pea shoots, lemon couscous, an orange citrus sauce and cumquat herb salad. Stubblefield presented his “Salmon from Heaven” dish, using Pacific salmon, broccolini, morels and quinoa, a notoriously tough-to-prepare edible seed from Spain. Rosenthal impressed the judges with handmade green tea pasta, pesto, Serrano ham and a quail egg.

Smith presents his plate

Needless to say, the judges were blown away and said each dish belonged in a restaurant. Chauhan offered mountains of praise for the contestants along with handy chef tips to improve their dishes and craft as they move forward in the culinary world.

Her overall assessment: “Sophisticated, clean, delicious flavors … and a good sign for our industry.”

The student chefs were whisked away as the judging panel discussed each dish. Upon their return, Sarah Rosenthal was announced the winner.

Sarah Rosenthal reacts to her win

Her jaw dropped in amazement as fellow competitors gave her hugs and congratulations. A culinary star to follow in Chauhan’s footsteps may have just been born.

ProStart is a two-year restaurant school-to-career program taught in Washington high schools through the Washington Restaurant Association Education Foundation. The ProStart curriculum is nationally accredited and prepares students for successful careers in the foodservice industry.

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