D211 Post: Palatine Students Win Cooking Competition

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Members of the Palatine High School team Will Landeene, Jaz (Diya) Sujayananda, Patti Dabrowska, and Gio Llanos-Hernandez pose with teacher Erika Varela.

Students enrolled in the culinary arts program at Palatine High School won the first Camos and Cooks competition hosted by Illinois Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Command’s Delta Herd at Harper College Oct. 18.  The students competed against teams from Harper as well as the Illinois Army National Guard.

            Senior Patti Dabrowska, the team captain, said the competition, which required the competitors to create a main course, dessert, and beverage using military Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) as the main ingredient, was a lot of pressure.

            “I tried to play cool,” she said “It was very exciting though.  There was a lot of emotion.”

Patti Dabrowska, a senior at Palatine High School in Palatine, Illinois, stirs batter for crêpes during the Camo and Cooks competition at Harper College.

Dabrowska was not the only one who felt the pressure.  Staff Sgt. Krystal Vazquez from Cicero, Illinois, a culinary specialist with the 3625th Component Repair Company, based in Chicago, said she was also nervous.

            “It was very nerve-racking,” said Vazquez.  “I was nervous, but I had a lot of fun with this.”

Staff Sgt. Rim Zivalich of Chicago, the supply noncomissioned officer for the 3625th Component Repair Company based in Chicago, discusses her teams recipe with Cpl. Krystal Vazquez of Cicero, Illinois, a culinary specialist with the 3625th.

            Erika Varela, a culinary arts teacher at Palatine High School said she was impressed by the effort and efficiency of her students. 

            In the competition, each team was given 35 minutes to create their meals from scratch. The teams then had to present their meals to a panel of three judges which included a representative from Harper College, Palatine High School, and the Illinois Army National Guard.

            Capt. James Brock, commanding officer of Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery based in Chicago, served as the judge representing the Guard.  He said after tasting the food that he was surprised MREs were used as the food tasted completely different.

The three judges sample each team’s dishes during the Camo and Cooks competition at Harper College.

            After the judges evaluated the meals from all three teams, 1st Sgt. Chad McDannald, the senior noncommissioned officer for Delta Herd announced Palatine as the winner.  That announcement brought a wave of emotions to the young team.

            “I cried,” said senior Jaz (Diya) Sujayananda.  “Cooking is a passion but I have never competed like this before.  I am glad I was picked to compete.”

            Junior Gio Llanos-Hernandez was also surprised to hear the announcement. 

            “I was shocked,” he said.  “I feel very proud.  This will make my parents proud too.”

Though his team did not win, Staff Sgt. Mauricio Manzo of Chicago, a culinary noncommissioned officer with the 3625th enjoyed the competition.

            “I really like that it gave us the opportunity to promote the culinary side of the Army,” he said.  “It’s nice to show off what we can do.”

            McDannald presented each member of the Palatine team with a plaque in recognition of their victory.

The Palatine High School Team shows off their championship plaques following the Camos and Cooks competition at Harper College.