By Ryan Cornell
The most valuable weapon in a chef's arsenal might be a set of knives or a dough roller, but for Cody Fitchett and Jordan Palmer, it's their Bibles.
Competing at the SkillsUSA Virginia competition in Roanoke this weekend, the two Triplett Tech students had their Bibles out on the corners of their tables while whipping up recipes against the best culinary students in the commonwealth.
Fitchett and Palmer topped their respective categories and are headed to the national competition in Kansas City this June. This marks the first time that anyone in the school's culinary program has reached the national competition or placed higher than third at states, Fitchett said.
Fitchett, who said he was the only male student out of the 12 people competing in the baking category, took home first place.
He said judges complimented him on his time management skills.
"I was confident that I was going to place, but I didn't want to jinx myself and say I was going to win," he said.
He made four recipes at the state competition, including pate a choux, banana bread, strawberry tart and also had to tort a cake and decorate it according to specifications.
Palmer, a postgraduate student, won first place in the culinary arts category.
After finishing his recipes, his mind mulled over possible mistakes he had made, including overcooking his vegetables, so it came as a surprise to hear he had won.
Palmer said he had to complete knife cuts for peppers, carrots and cucumbers for a spring roll appetizer and create an entree of rice pilaf and cooked chicken breasts with an Asian sauce and vegetables.
He said he plans on spending much of his time practicing for the national competition.
"Just working on knife cuts, learning different ways to cook proteins and different ways to cook rices and starches," Palmer said.
As a first place winner, Fitchett received a $12,000 scholarship. He's already been accepted into the Culinary Institute of America with a $20,000 scholarship, and plans to visit the school this week.
"So I pretty much decided that's where I want to go," he said.
Palmer said he plans to attend the Johnson & Wales campus in Denver, but still wants to move there even if he's not accepted into the culinary school.
"It's becoming like the next big culinary city in America," he said.
He credited Triplett Tech culinary teacher Paje Cross with his success.
"She's an awesome teacher and she really deserved it more," he said. "Because of everything she taught me, every day I'm learning something new. She teaches it in a way you remember so well."
Zach Hensley, another Triplett Tech student competing in the state competition, placed first in the electricity category. He will also be competing at the national competition.
The 50th annual SkillsUSA Championships will be held in Kansas City from June 25 to 26.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org