COLUMBIA — Under a large canopy, the atmosphere was serene as several families, friends and community members enjoyed custom omelets and the nice weather Saturday at the Columbia Farmers Market on Clinkscales Road.
But in the background, the atmosphere was busy and loud as a line of customers grew and more orders came in. More than 20 students donned in chef's attire paid close attention to the simmering ingredients and eggs in their skillets over stations powered by a large generator and propane.
What: Omelet fundraiser hosted by the Columbia Area Career Center
When: 9 a.m. to noon Sunday
Where: North Village Farmers and Artisans Market behind the Wabash Bus Station and Root Cellar on Walnut Street between Tenth and Orr streets.
Cost: Omelets are $5; all ingredients come from local farmers and vendors
These expert chefs-in-the-making are scrambling through the weekend at farmers markets to serve up enough cash to send two Rock Bridge High School students to a national competition in June.
The omelet fundraiser, in its eighth year, is largely organized and executed by students to send Chormaic Sullivan and Austin Scoles to the 2014 National Leadership and Skills Competition.
Sullivan and Scoles, both students in the Culinary Academy, qualified to compete in the culinary arts and baking competitions, respectively. Last year, two students from the academy took first place in the national competition.
At the state competition, each chef had to work under time constraints and pressure to make six dishes. In the baking category, Scoles baked a loaf of bread, decorated a cake, and made pie crusts, puff pastries, pumpkin bread and sugar cookies.
In the culinary arts category, the competitors are judged for skills such as knife cuts and breaking down chickens. They have to make a salad, soup, an appetizer and an entrée.
For the main course, Sullivan made a braised stuffed chicken leg served over mirepoix — a sauteed mixture of onion, celery and carrots — with roasted brussels sprouts, glazed rutabagas, sauteed turnips and a mushroom risotto.
Sullivan began honing his passion for cooking when he was 13 years old working at an Italian restaurant in Portland, Ore., as a dishwasher and food runner. Not long after that, he got a job at Bleu Restaurant & Catering in Columbia.
His main responsibility? Making omelets at Sunday brunch
"My job interview at Bleu was actually cooking omelets at Mother's Day brunch," he said. "You could say I've cooked my fair share of omelets."
Sullivan said the Culinary Academy, which is part of the Columbia Area Career Center, has done far more than turn him into an expert omelet maker, though — it has helped him and other students develop life skills such as organization and time management.
"The academy helped me improve my grades in other classes," Sullivan said. "It's changed my whole perspective just seeing how intense things can get and how busy things actually are, and even though it's stressful and chaotic at time, I really like doing it."
Scoles, 18, joined the Culinary Academy three years ago and competed in state. This year, he'll go to nationals.
"I'm really looking forward to walking away with time management skills," Scoles said. "I think its going to be a great experience no matter what the outcome is."
The two young chefs and their peers will return to make omelets Sunday. The chefs will be set up at the North Village Arts District Farmers and Artisans Market from 9 a.m. to noon.
Brook Harlan, a culinary arts instructor at the Columbia Area Career Center, said he expects the students to make more than 1,000 omelets through the weekend.
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