Cooking up a championship

GHS culinary team wins state title by wowing judges with sweet potato lasagna rolls

GRAFTON HIGH SCHOOL culinary team members (from left) Ava Govek, Dana Lemke and Kailey Lueck took first place in the Whipping Up Wellness state competition at Madison Area Technical College last month. The trio’s sweet potato lasagna recipe topped a field of 77 entries. Below, Govek and Lueck paid close attention to their work as they joined Lemke in preparing the recipe.
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press staff

    Grafton High School’s culinary team is making a name for itself after winning  a state contest hosted by the Department of Public Instruction. 

    Senior Dana Lemke and sophomores Ava Govek and Kailey Lueck — also known as “Team Blondies” — took first place out 77 entries for their sweet potato lasagna rolls recipe.  

    “We felt like we were on one of those Food Network shows,” said Brenda Stielow, the school’s family and consumer-science teacher. 

    The students, who were in Stielow’s seventh-hour class, decided to enter their recipe in Whipping Up Wellness, a student chef competition, at Madison Area Technical College. 

    “There’s a lot of paperwork you have to fill out, focusing on the nutritional aspects of the recipe,” Stielow said.

    “I thought it would be good for us to give it a try, so we could perfect it for next year.”

    This year’s competition required students to use a red or orange vegetable in a recipe that could be incorporated into a school food-service program or made at home. The competition also required teams to make 50 servings, Stielow said.

    Stielow said the team didn’t hear back for a few months after submitting a recipe in February and figured it was shelved. In late spring, the trio learned they would be one of five teams invited to participate in a May 16 cook-off.

    “The excitement just kept on building when I told the girls we were in the top five,” Stielow said.

    The other teams invited to participate were from Algoma High School, Green Bay East High School, Plymouth High School and South Park Middle School in Oshkosh. 

    In preparation for the cook-off, the Grafton team practiced several times after school and served the lasagna rolls to students during lunch.

    “We mostly got strong reviews, but some students said we should add more cheese,” Stielow said, noting the judges told her after the competition it wouldn’t  be as appetizing if they added more. 

    During the cook-off, students had two hours to make and plate their recipe before presenting their dish to a panel of judges. Teams provided information about the development of their recipe and the results of their taste tests. 

    The students were judged on their dish’s nutritional quality, use of culinary skills, potential use by school food service, presentation, description and creativity.

    During the cook-off, Stielow said the team was nervous but also enamored by the stainless-steel appliances and commercial ovens.

    “It was nerve wracking and awesome all at once,” she said. “Two hours isn’t much time, and they were running pretty close at the end.”

    The team was able to manage the stress, and when the girls learned they took first place, they were ecstatic. 

    Stielow said their recipe will be published in a cookbook that includes other teams’ recipes from the competition.

    Stielow previously had all her students submit recipes for the competition in 2015, but none of them made the cut. She said she was reluctant to try it again this year but believed there was a specially motivated group.

    Stielow said she’s not sure if the students will pursue culinary opportunities for a career but is excited to have Govek and Lueck in her advanced-foods class next year.

    Stielow also said she is interested in having her students compete in a gingerbread competition in Kohler next year. 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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