Chugiak team takes another first in culinary competition

Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 09:25
  • Members of the Chugiak High School ProStart team earned first place in state competition on Jan. 30. Members of the team include: Front row: PaKou Yang, Macha Yang, Sarah Tangog, Tia Kellher and Akerke Demeubayeva. Back row: Kristen Smith, Tevor Tarbox and Jon Duffield. Photos courtesy Kathleen Vik for the Star

Fair warning: You might be hungry after reading this story.

The wild-caught Alaska sablefish marinated and seared, served over parsnip-potato puree, sautéed Brussels sprouts and julienne parsnips, glazed with orange juice and topped with grape tomato jam won the Chugiak High School ProStart yet another first place in state culinary and management competition.

The Jan. 30 win by the eight-member team — three managers and five culinary workers — marks the fifth straight win for the management side and the fourth straight for the culinary team representing CHS at the Alaska ProStart Invitational.

The team competes again in April in Dallas in the National ProStart Invitational.

ProStart is a nationwide two-year high school-based extra-curricular program sponsored by the National Restaurant Association. It offers its participating students professional training in the culinary arts to further their careers after graduation.

“This is my last year for ProStart and high school so winning means a lot to me,” PaKou Yang said. “I spent a lot of time this year getting my team ready. There were definitely ups and downs but we all stayed together and in the end it was worth it.”

April’s trip to Dallas is her second trip to nationals. Yang plans to attend the University of Alaska Anchorage majoring in the hospitality industry.

Yang and the four other members of the culinary team — Jon Duffield, Kristen Smith, Tevor Tarbox and Macha Yang — had one hour to prep a three-course meal using only two butane burners that would be fit for a fine dining experience.

Aside from the above mentioned entrée, the meal started with a lemon ricotta arugula candied bacon salad with house-made lemon ricotta, baby arugula and basil tossed in cherry vinaigrette and topped with pickled red beets, golden beets, blueberries and cherries. The salad was garnished with Togarashi candied bacon. Dessert was a lemon lavender panna cotta with lavender and lemon infused and served on top of a poppy seed buckwheat blini over lavender honey and white balsamic vinegar. It was accompanied by almond flowers and lemon caviar.

For Akerke Demeubayeva, a senior exchange student from Kazakhstan, participating in ProStart deepened her appreciation for fine American cuisine and business management.

She and Tia Kellher and Sarah Tangog comprised the management side of the CHS entry in the annual state competition.

“Being a member of a team is the best way to be involved in the culture,” she said. Demeubayeva said she hopes to open her own business after high school. She thinks her ProStart experience will help. “I had an unbelievable experienced and I learned lots of new and usable information. I will use this knowledge in my future.”

Learn more about ProStart online at

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