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Cooking her way to the top

Colonie Central student makes waves with her love of the kitchen and dining room

Rachel Gauthier snagged first place in the Restaurant Service category at the 2013 New York State SkillsUSA Competition in Syracuse. She will head to the national competition in Kansas City, Mo., this summer.

Rachel Gauthier snagged first place in the Restaurant Service category at the 2013 New York State SkillsUSA Competition in Syracuse. She will head to the national competition in Kansas City, Mo., this summer. Photo by Zan Strumfeld.

— There is nothing Colonie Central High School senior Rachel Gauthier doesn’t like to cook. Meats, vegetables, cakes, soups. You name it, she’ll make it.

“I always just throw whatever’s in the fridge and just test it out,” Gauthier, 17, said. “I don’t really have a favorite dish. I like to explore and try different things.”

Gauthier is testing the culinary waters through the Capital Region BOCES Career & Technical School, where she studies as a Culinary Arts Tech Prep student, gaining college credit through Schenectady County Community College. This is her second year in the program, and she spends about two hours a day outside of her high school classroom in the kitchen, learning to cook and the etiquette involved with serving a meal.

All her work paid off this April when she snagged first place in the Restaurant Service category at the 2013 New York State SkillsUSA Competition in Syracuse. She will head to the national competition in Kansas City, Mo., this summer.

SkillsUSA is a student organization arm of the national Career and Technical Education program, and more than 2,300 students competed at this year’s state competition. Gauthier placed second in the state in the baking and culinary categories, and first in restaurant service. For the latter, contestants were tested on skills required in a fine-dining restaurant, such as guest service, table set up, greeting guests, description of the menus and serving each course.

Gauthier didn’t have to cook for this segment. She was judged on her personal appearance, tableside manners, professionalism and courtesy. Working at a local restaurant, she said, may have helped since she felt comfortable working with customers. For the final competition, she said she would train by learning all about wines, including techniques on opening different bottles, as well as table settings and serving.

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