A Springfield local has won the state Skills USA culinary competition. Katie Baker, who works under chef Zach White at The Order, will be taking her skills to nationals this June.
“I had to develop a menu and make five courses – an appetizer, a soup, a salad and two different entrees – in four hours. It was a guided competition in that they gave us a mystery basket full of ingredients we had to use – kind of like Chopped,” Baker explains
This was Baker’s first time competing with Skills USA, so she had heard about what to expect, but hadn’t experienced it first-hand. However, she believes her experience in the kitchen aided her as much as her experience in the classroom. “My time at The Order has really prepared me for the competition in honing my culinary skills of speed and accuracy, working in a fast-paced environment,” she says. “Some of the things I did on my menu were a derivative of what we do at The Order. I’ve learned some great skills there, like pickling.”
In fact, Baker thinks pickling was one of the things that set her apart from the rest of the competition. “They’re not looking for the most creative plate; the goal is to make the most technically sound dishes,” she says. “Since I’m really familiar with how to make a technically ‘perfect’ deviled egg, I was able to take it to the next level.”
For the national competition, Skills USA has already released the ingredients in three different mystery baskets. Baker is familiarizing herself with each of these and brainstorming ideas for three distinct menus. She’ll find out the final ingredients the day before the competition.
“I want to do well at nationals,” Baker says, “but more than anything, I’m excited to challenge myself. Even if I don’t win or place, I want to take this experience and learn from it.”