Young Tosa chefs headed to national contest

Published on: 3/29/2012

Frankie Fleury remembers pretending to be on a cooking show as she made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a youngster.

"I looked at making food as art," Fleury said. "I still want to be creative and please people."

Now a junior at Wauwatosa East High School, Fleury has excelled in both areas. She is one of a four-member culinary team - Raven Koch, Kirsten Miller and Ian Gradian round out the squad - that took first place in the Wisconsin ProStart Invitational earlier this month. The team's success among 22 other schools takes them to a national competition April 27 to 29 in Baltimore.

There, team members will prepare the same dishes they did at state, including scallops, tea-smoked duck and gingered strawberry shortcake. And they will do it all on two bunsen burners.

Barb Bruesewitz, the family and consumer education teacher who mentors the ProStart team, said it is the school's first such state championship after competing for many years.

"It's quite a process," Bruesewitz said. "You have to bring your own equipment and you can't cook on anything but the bunsen burners."

The process, she said, starts with developing a menu and experimenting with recipes that will match the high-end entries that judges expect.

The competition also tests the teams' ability in handling equipment as well as the business side of culinary art.

For example, team members are judged on personal appearance and hygiene as well as their knife skills. They also are required to fabricate, or cut up, a whole chicken.

The other skill is how well they price their menu. They cannot go over $75.

"We are very fortunate that we have a partner in Eddie Martini's," Bruesewitz said. "They have been able to get product for us at a very reasonable cost."

The restaurant supplies more than product. Executive Chef Jason Tofte has mentored the students through the state competition.

"I think they will do pretty well at the national competition. They are dedicated," Tofte said.

Fleury said she hasn't thought about where she will study beyond high school, but is inspired.

"Working with Jason and Mrs. B. has been a great experience," she said.

Senior Raven Koch plans to attend Milwaukee's Art Institute of Wisconsin for culinary studies.

"I really like cooking," Koch said. "I have my favorite dishes, mostly pastas, but I have learned a lot more in the competition."

Koch is looking forward to the Baltimore trip for personal reasons, as well.

"My mom lives there and so she will be able to see me," she said. "When we won state and found out we would be going to Baltimore, I called her. We were so happy that we both started crying."


WHAT: National ProStart Invitational culinary competition

WHERE: Baltimore, Md.

WHEN: April 27 to 29

CHEER FOR: Tosa East's ProStart Culinary Team: Frankie Fleury, Ian Gradian, Raven Koch and Kirsten Miller