State champs

The St. Clair County culinary arts program won its fifth state championship recently at the Alabama ProStart State Competition in Culinary Management. From left are Phillip Jordan, Rebecca Mhagama, Abbigail Lanz, Olivia Landrum, Jacob Kinkead and Chef Melissa Allphin.

For the fifth year in a row, St Clair County’s High School Culinary Arts program can claim a state championship. Located at Moody High School, the team recently won the Alabama ProStart State Competition in Culinary Management.

In addition to winning first place, the team was also awarded the Spirit and Team Work Award for 2019, given to the team that works best together as well as helping other competitors at the competition. 

This year’s members include Rebecca Mhagama (team captain), Phillip Jordan, Jacob Kinkead and Olivia Landrum. They have been invited to compete in Washington, D.C. for the National Championships in May.

The event is hosted by the NRA (National Restaurant Association) who give full college scholarships to the culinary program or college of your choice to the winning top five competing teams.

In addition to scholarships, attending students are introduced to industry giants who often pull exceptional students and offer jobs and internships to give them a head start in the hospitality industry.

“It’s the reason we compete and go to these events”, said Chef Melissa Allphin, St Clair’s Culinary Arts Instructor. “The trips are fun for the students, but they have to work very hard to compete against students who literally come from all across the globe. Our current ranking is 20th, but we would like to get into that top 5 to 10 schools and be recognized and receive the full opportunities available to our students through this competition.”

Allphin said the students gain so much from trips such as this. They meet like-minded students across the country, make important contacts with hotels, restaurants and universities and have doors opened to their futures in ways that no other event can offer them at their age.

“We have former students working in top resort hotels and restaurants, finishing culinary schools and even one student who has worked internationally with Doctor’s without Boarders,” she said. “The opportunities given to them are endless, but they can’t get offers without community and family support.”

Allphin said after the event in May, senior team members Jacob Kinkead and Phillip Jordan both plan to continue their education in culinary arts; Kinkead as a chef and Jordan in management. Junior team member Olivia Landrum plans to pursue her dream of becoming a pastry chef while team captain and senior member Rebecca Mhagama is heading to Alabama to pursue a degree in political science this fall after, hopefully, interning with Perdido Beach Resort in management for the summer.

“This team has also won or placed in the overall culinary competition four of the five years, making our area team the winningest culinary program in the state of Alabama,” Allphin said. “They are currently ranked 20th of 1800 schools competing in the United States and abroad.”

Eden Career Tech Center director Trisha Turner said she was so proud of Mrs. Allphin and her outstanding culinary students.

“They represented St. Clair County Schools extremely well,” Turner said. “I look forward to seeing what they accomplish at the national competition in May.”


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