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South culinary program wraps up productive year
South Forsyth High students, from left, MaKenzie Petrin, Corey Nolan, Jamey Brazier, JiSun Ham, Olivia Fisse took third place in the 13th Annual National ProStart Invitational, a culinary competition where they went up against state champions from 46 other states. Earlier this spring, the team was named Georgia state champions. - photo by For the FCN


* Take a behind the scenes look at the South Forsyth High culinary classroom in this video.

SOUTH FORSYTH — With national rankings, help from a master chef and an additional instructor, it’s been a good year for the South Forsyth High School culinary arts program.

Five of the program’s students took part in recent state and national culinary competitions.

The team ended up placing first in the state competition earlier this spring. That victory gave it the opportunity to take part in the 13th Annual National ProStart Invitational, competing against champions from 46 other states, territories and Department of Defense bases.

South’s team came in third in that competition.

“We’re the only ones in the state of Georgia that have placed that high in nationals and we’ve done it two different times, in 2011 and this year,” said Dawn Martin, culinary arts lead instructor.

She added that the team — made up of seniors Corey Nolan and Jamey Brazier; juniors JiSun Ham and Olivia Fisse′; and sophomore MaKenzie Petrin — has also earned more $50,000 in scholarships.

All five of the students plan to attend culinary colleges after leaving South.

Brazier, Martin said, recently won a competition through his future school, Le Cordon Bleu.

“He is now representing the entire Southeast region for [a national competition] for a full-ride scholarship to Cordon Bleu in California later this month,” Martin said.

At least part of the team members’ success has likely come from the addition of a new helper this year.

Martin said Derin Moore, an Atlanta-area certified master chef, has been mentoring the group.

“There are only 65 certified master chefs in the United States, so we’re very blessed to have him,” she said. “I’ve learned so much from him too.”

Besides the team, Martin said the program has had other successes this year.

She said the program’s dish at last weekend’s Flavors of Forsyth, a food festival fundraiser for United Way, won best dessert.

The program also saw the addition of a second instructor this year.

“Suzanne Smatt came on board this year and she’s been great,” Martin said. “The administration has been so supportive of our program and with that [second teacher], we were able to add five more classes of culinary this year.

“I had 200 students on a waiting list and now there’s not a waiting list anymore.”

Students in the program begin with an introductory course, where they learn “the basics” such as sanitation, safety and knife skills. They can then move on to more advanced classes.

“In those classes, we do a lot of caterings,” Martin said. “We’ve been able to help people in the community with that so [the students] can have some real-life experiences.”

Students in an advanced class earlier this week were working on their last catering job of the school year, preparing 160 meals for a DECA marketing club banquet.

As a longtime resident of Forsyth County, Martin said seeing the success of the program has been meaningful.

“It is exciting to see because I grew up in this area,” she said. “So not only being able to give back, but now I’ve had some of these students long enough that they’re coming to give back too, and that’s really incredible to see.”

Martin is always trying to find new ways to help her students.

Next year, she would like to add a “culinary tour” to Greece, Italy or Spain to further enhance the offerings and give students more firsthand knowledge of various food cultures.

“[This program] keeps me on my toes because I always think, ‘What can I do to take it to that next level,’” she said.