SALEMBURG — Maykala Bishop and her fellow classmates from Union High School went to war with a winning recipe.
Using locally grown pecans and homemade butter cream, the young chef were the grand champions of the 2016 Sampson County Schools Cupcake Wars, held recently at Lakewood High School.
“Everybody put in a good effort and it feels really good to come in first place,” Bishop said. “We worked really hard on this. It took a long time, but our hard work paid off.”
The event, which featured teams from local high schools, allowed students to display their culinary skills. The theme from Union’s display focused on Saturday night in Sampson County.
“It’s basically a party in the cornfield with a bonfire and s’mores and tents,” Bishop said.
Hobbton High School placed second and Lakewood High School came in third. The top recipients received certificates and plaques and will be recognized during the next meeting for the Sampson County Schools Board of Education.
Some of the unique tastes and secret ingredients included sweet potato, watermelon chocolate chip and Oreo cookies. There was even a barbecue flavored treat.
Chef Benjamin Baker, one of several judges, said a lot of good cupcakes were made for the competition. He said the event allowed students to become better at public speaking and teamwork.
“Keep doing what you’re doing,” Baker said. “It’s tough being a chef and it’s tough being a baker. This is the beginning stages of becoming a chef and doing what you want to do later on in the future.”
Other judges included Ryan Ray, entrepreneur; Geovana Concepcion, a Panama native and English as a Second Language Coordinator; Matthew Register, owner of Southern Smoke BBQ in Garland; Dr. Paul Hutchins, president of Sampson Community College; and Chris Sessoms, a licensed cosmetologist.
Michelle Lindsey, organizer and LHS Family Consumer Science (FCS) teacher, said a lot of preparation went into the event, which required time and commitment from students. In addition to allowing the students to show off their baking skills, the event allowed them to help victims of Hurricane Matthew. For admission, non-perishable food items and bottled water were accepted. Items will be distributed to Salemburg’s food bank.
Lindsey encouraged audience members to assist or volunteer at the bank.
“If nothing else, we need to work in our communities,” Lindsey said. “Our communities only get better if we serve in them.”
During the event, a lot of emphasis was placed on Career and Technical Education (CTE) and FCS. John Goode, principal of Lakewood High School, spoke to students, teachers and attendees about the importance of these fields. He said society has fallen into a trap believing that every student needs to attend a four-year university to be successful.
“As long as Americans are addicted to air conditioning, addicted to indoor plumbing, addicted to (driving), there will always be room for skilled trades,” Goode said. “We as educators need to make certain that we’re providing that type of education for our students.
“Imagine a world without AC, imagine a world with no indoor plumbing … imagine a world with no cupcakes.”
Goode continued to express the importance of teachers’ roles in technical education.
“We encourage students to do all that they can academically,” he said. “We also want to provide opportunity for kids that have the drive, have the dream to work with their hands, work with their minds and to produce. America used to be the greatest nation of producers. We need to return ourselves to that standard. I think events like cupcake wars is a good start in that direction.”
Like many other students, Bishop enjoyed taking CTE and FCS at the school.
“It makes high school a lot more fun and a lot more interesting, instead of just sitting in a math or English class all day,” Bishop said.
Stacey Taylor, Family & Consumer Sciences Teacher, expressed how important it is for students to focus on technical and hands-on skills.
“Not every kid is going to be a doctor,” Taylor said. “We need to have those people to fix our meals and build houses. It’s real important.”
Ginger Stone, director of CTE in Sampson County Schools, was one of many school officials who observed the imagination of the students.
“They were very creative with presenting their projects,” Stone said. “I just thought it was a good opportunity to showcase some of the skills that they’re learning in their classes.”
Col. Tommy Macon, assistant superintendent, enjoyed seeing students engaged in their projects.
“It gave them the opportunity to get out and produce things they can be proud of,” Macon said. “The community support has been overwhelming too. It’s a wonderful event we should continue to have.”
Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy said the event allowed students to display creativity. He applauded the work of Lindsey and all the CTE teachers for getting the groups ready.
“I’m looking forward to this happening every year,” Bracy said. “I think it brought out a lot of wonderful ideas. Whenever we set the bar high, our students always willing to reach it.”
Chef Amadeus, an award winning cook featured on the Food Network, made plans to visit but was unable to come. Lindsey said he was upset that he could not attend. He tried to interact with participants through Skype, but the connection was not working. Amadeus plans to put out a message to Sampson County Schools through social media outlets such as Instagram and Twitter. Lindsey said he will try to make an appearance in the spring, to share cooking techniques.
“That will definitely be something we can look forward to,” Lindsey said.
Angela LeMay, FCS education consultant for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, said the event at Lakewood was a great example of collaborative “real world” project-based learning.
“Students apply knowledge, skills and techniques learned in their Family & Consumer Sciences classrooms as they work to develop their products,” LeMay said. “This learning opportunity allows students to develop essential 21st Century skills by utilizing critical thinking skills, creativity, teamwork and communication skills.”
She added that Lindsey and all the FCS teachers in Sampson County Schools should be commended for providing the opportunity for students.
“Career & Technical Education is critical in academic environments, now more than ever, to empower students to become successful citizens, workers and leaders in a global economy,” she said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.