Culinary classmates collaborate

Folsom teens top culinary competition, off to nationals
By: Rachel Zirin, Senior Reporter
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Jensen Ash and Brian Whempner competed in a state culinary competition and took home first place in the senior category. Now, they are off to nationals in Nashville, Tennessee, but they need some help.

The two Folsom High School students competed in the state competition last year and took first place as well and when they went to nationals in San Diego, they took 11th place. This year, they are looking to score higher.

During this year’s Family Career and Community Leaders of America state competition, the theme was "Food Innovations." The guidelines for each of the five teams were to produce a portion pack snack to eat after a workout with 10 grams of high quality protein with a protein efficiency ratio of 1.5 or higher, Ash said.

“We decided to make a protein bar,” she said. “It didn’t really have a flavor. It wasn’t like the bars you see on the market now. We used all natural ingredients so that it was real food.”
The ingredients they used included oatmeal, flaxseed, dried fruit and dried nuts. They also used white chocolate with food coloring on top to make a nice presentation. After, they had to box it.

Ash and Whempner named their protein bar the ‘Rewind Bar’ with an 80s theme to it, Ash said.

“I am super excited about winning first place again,” she said. “I m excited to be representing Folsom and California at nationals this year, especially since it is in Tennessee.”

The two 18-year-olds are short on cash and were not sure if they were going to be able to go, as the price of the trip would cost around $5,000.

Whempner interns at local restaurant Le Charenton one day a week and when Steven Long, owner, heard they were in a bind, he drew up a plan to help.

Long spoke with friend and long-time Rotarian board member, Bob Mutchler, and they found a way to make sure the two young chefs made it to their competition.

Long said if Ash and Whempner would come up with $2,500, Mutchler would donate a quarter, and he would hold a dinner his restaurant to raise the rest.

Mutchler brought the matter to the nighttime Rotary club and they approved the donation of $1,250 for vocational services to the two teens.

Long met with Ash and Whempner only last week to discuss the dinner, so no menu is set yet, but the plans are.

The special dinner will take place on May 30 at Le Charenton and tickets are priced at $100. The dinner includes all meals cooked at crafted by Ash and Whempner, as well as wine parings with each course.

Long said he hopes to have as many as 50 guests.

“This dinner is not about me, it is about the kids. It is about the community coming together,” Long said. “Their work ethic is amazing. They work at another restaurant several days a week, they intern and they go to school. Their work ethic is admirable and I want to promote that.”

When Long found out a few months back that Folsom High School is discontinuing the culinary program, he was not happy.

“I had meeting here every week with people trying to get the board to keep the program going, but it didn’t work,” he said. “My argument is how many kids graduate high school love sports and continue to play sports after? How many are graduating high school and are going to work in culinary arts in any way, shape or form? It can be working at a fast food restaurant or a coffee place.”

Long said he thinks the program should have remained, but that is just his opinion.

“These two young people are so deserving of this,” Mutchler said. “They work so hard and they continue to work hard. They really strive for excellence.”

When Ash and Whempner compete at nationals, they will be creating the protein bar again, but this time, they are going practice and perfect it. Ash said at the state competition they made it raw and for nationals they plan to cook it.

Ash and Whempner have been in the culinary program at Folsom High School for the last three years and it is actually where they met also.

“When I was signing up for classes my freshman year, they said there was this cooking class and you just make food and stuff. It sounded cook so I took it,” Whempner said. “When I took ROP, I found out I really like cooking and realized that I want to be in this industry.”

Ash said she hated her electives her freshman year so she took the introduction class her sophomore year because she loved cooking already.

“My teacher said the class was two periods long so I thought that sounded cool.”

Both teens aren’t sure what they plan do to after school, but they are sure they want to stay in the culinary and hospitality industry.