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West // West Oahu Coverstory
Carol Chang

Hurricanes Whip Up A Tasty Final Exam

My mission was to enter a room full of nervous teenagers holding knives, watch them closely for 90 minutes and judge their actions. They were all dressed alike and divided into three gangs, ah, work lines with one goal: to make the best meal ever.

Welcome to Kapolei High School’s culinary arts final exam: The 2014 World Cafe, offering a choice of lunch from 23 countries in eight days.

This particular April day featured the cuisines of Ethiopia, Germany and France, all researched by the students – from culture, budget and shopping to recipes and table settings. Teachers Cynthia Pratt and Jeff Sampson hovered around, providing the gentle nudges and quick commands needed to keep it all together: (“Your napkin is upside down!” “Turn your hat around!” “Wash your hands again!” “Only 32 minutes left, let’s go!”)

At the Ethiopia workstation, a tall slim youth was crying. Chopping onions can do that to a person. His teammate explained how they had to make all the spices themselves to create their simple, flavorful stew, salad and sweet potato/lentil dish – which earned raves from diners.

In another corner of the gleaming kitchen lab, two “German” lads had the chicken schnitzel sauteeing away, as they plopped Cheddar dumplings into a simmering tomato base. The team’s lone fraulein was shaping a roll of cheese and cherry strudel.

“The boys didn’t want to do it,” she shrugged.

Cameras rolled in the hands of the video students. Other youths kept busy washing the many bowls, cups and plates generated by the young chefs. A crowd of hungry customers gathered in the cafe nearby, where all cloth napkins were now right side up.

In France, the breasts of chicken cordon bleu were curled up neatly around their tempting cheese and ham fillings, all ready to bake.

“I practiced this five times at home,” said the young chef. Next to him, a classic onion soup was bubbling (more crying cooks), potatoes were being whipped and a delicate chocolate pudding was taking shape.

Tension mounted as the clock ticked to the end. The beans! Ach du Lieber – they were still too hard to scoop into the Weisse Bohnensuppe (white bean soup)! Ethiopia’s lentils also got a late start. Quick, grab a garnish. Hurry, they’re finished with their soup dish. Time’s up, gang.

Judging was tough. Everything was delicious. Give them all an A, Mrs. Pratt.

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