Local students make fancy food for Governor's Ball

Inslee's inaugural appetizers from Clark County Skills Center

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter



If you go

What: Clark County Skills Center.

Where: A Touch of Class Restaurant, 12200 N.E. 28th St., 360-604-1050.

When: Breakfast served 8:45 to 10 a.m. on Jan. 17, 18, 23, 30 and 31. Lunch will be added in February.

On the Web: Clark County Skills Center.

Governor's Ball food prep

Clark County Skills Center students prepare food for the Governor's Ball on Jan. 16, 2013.

Laurel Glass, 18, piped raspberry cream cheese onto a cracker, garnished it with cedar greens and topped it with a morsel of smoked salmon. One hors d'oeuvre finished; only 7,499 to go.

In the busy kitchen at the Clark County Skills Center, students from the restaurant management/culinary arts program chopped, diced and artfully created 7,500 appetizers Tuesday for the Governor's Ball and Reception in Olympia.

When Washington's new governor, Jay Inslee, is inaugurated today, about 30 students and Andrew McColley, chef instructor, will deliver the food via school bus to Olympia, put the food on plates and serve it.

McColley stopped at a work station where students Kelsey Roldness, 17, Arirat Chantara, 17, Sarai Najera, 18, and Jessica Dallum, 18, cut spinach into thin slices.

After looking at the cut spinach, McColley directed, "Thinner. Like blades of grass."

"It's kind of hard," Dallum said. "There! That looks good."

This is the third time the program's students have been invited by the Washington State Chefs Association and The American Culinary Federation to prepare food for the Governor's Ball.

The Skills Center program, accredited by the American Culinary Federation, is among the top high school culinary programs in the nation. It's one of 17 culinary programs -- and one of only two high schools in the state -- invited to prepare food for the Governor's Ball.

One of the first graduates of the Skills Center's culinary arts program, McColley worked in the restaurant business and ran his own restaurant before returning to teach in the kitchen where he started his culinary career. He's been teaching here for 21 years. His wife, Robbin McColley, is the program's catering coordinator.

McColley and Greg Retchless, restaurant management instructor, walked around the kitchen Tuesday advising the students dressed in white chef garb. Eighty students prepared the appetizers. Several said they plan to pursue careers as chefs.

McColley and some of his second-year students collaborated to create the five kinds of hors d'oeuvres inspired by ingredients from Washington: apples, cranberries, raspberries, hazelnuts, wild mushrooms and salmon.

Janelle Lefor, 17, the sous chef and second-in-command student in the kitchen, assembled a petite salad in a savory tart shell and topped it with wild boar, which definitely is not a Washington ingredient.

"Wild boar looks like salami," Lefor said, adding the seasoned meat as a finishing touch.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515; http://twitter.com/col_schools;susan.parrish@columbian.com.