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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.

— “I think it’s great,” Gauthier’s teacher Chef Paul Dolan said. “It’s not winning or losing, just going to nationals is pretty cool. She can network with kids with similar interests from the whole country.”

Gauthier also competed at the SkillsUSA event last year, but didn’t make it to nationals. In November, she participated in the Culinary Cornucopia, a local competition that raises money for Living Resources, an organization that offers programs for individuals with brain injuries or developmental disabilities. Gauthier will graduate the Career & Tech School with 12 college credits through the culinary classes.

Although Gauthier said she enjoys serving, her true passion is right in the kitchen. It hasn’t always been an easy ride, however. When she first started experimenting at 10 years old, she ruined her first concoction: a quesadilla.

“I burned it on the pan. I got banned from the stove in my house,” she said. “And then, of course, I had to try it again. I don’t give up, I just keep trying.”

Her father’s great cooking style kept her motivated in the kitchen, and her grandmother’s baking didn’t hurt, either. American cook Paula Deen, however, is her favorite celebrity chef.

“She’s my girl,” Gauthier said. “She’s just a great cook and I love her personality.”

When she’s not in the classroom, Gauthier said she prefers to cook for other people because she likes to hear feedback. Lately, she said she’s been really getting into butchering meat.

“I like butchering. I think it’s cool learning about where the meat’s coming from, which part of the cow,” she said.

Gauthier said she can’t wait for the national competition this June, where the grand prize is a full-ride scholarship to a culinary institute. She said her dream school is the Culinary Institute of America in Poughkeepsie.

As for her foodie future, Gauthier said she once dreamed of owning a restaurant, but now her overall goal is to become a nutritionist, possibly at a hospital in New York City for kids facing life-threatening illnesses.

“They were looking for a head chef/nutritionist and I love working with kids that have special needs. So cooking and putting that together would be great,” she said.

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