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Mousse master
Young chef takes first at culinary event
Teen Chef Award 1 es
Harrison Parish whips cream for a dessert. - photo by Emily Saunders
When looking at Harrison Parish, it’s hard to tell that the 18-year-old just won a competition for best teen chef in the region.

In fact, it’s hard to tell the somewhat shy, rail-thin teen with a full head of hair cooks at all.

But once he puts on his chef hat and coat, it’s apparent that Parish is in his element.

“When he’s in the kitchen, he really comes out of himself, and he can take control and knows what he wants,” said his mother, Caroline.

The young chef said he prefers working on a team in cooking challenges, but a recent venture is testament to his mom’s words.

Parish won a solo competition April 10 at the Art Institute of Atlanta, earning him the local cook-off title of “best teen chef.”

He’ll travel to Houston next month for the May 15 Art Institutes national competition. He’ll compete with 40 teen chefs for the title, a full scholarship to an Art Institutes culinary school and a chance to visit the Food Network studios in New York.

In preparation for his recent victory, Parish had two weeks to practice cooking the menu of shrimp cocktail, chicken and broccoli.

“I got really sick of chicken after that,” he said.

Parish said his hard work and dedication to cooking is what pays off in competition and what shines through in his food.

“Once the [state] competition ended and I was between this one and the best teen chef, I felt like something was missing, like when I wasn’t working, I was like, ‘What am I going to do?’” he said. “I have to be working.”

He can easily spend 17 hours a day at work, including time at South Forsyth High School, his job and with his cooking team.

He starts off many mornings at Dutch Monkey Doughnuts, located near campus, working as a prep cook alongside two well-trained chefs.

Parish also cooks during school hours, working as a teacher’s assistant during a culinary class.

When the other students are crowding to leave school, Parish works on finessing recipes with the school’s culinary team.

The senior said he’s lucky to have discovered what he loves so early in life.

Though he was a picky eater as a child, Parish said he started to get interested in cooking in middle school, when he wanted to learn how to make the foods he loved.

“After I learned how to make those and after finding out about the program [at SFHS] and seeing the kitchen for the first time, I knew I really wanted to get into the business,” he said.

Parish began younger than most students, entering the culinary classes as a sophomore.

He has the honor of being the first South student to take first place at the regional teen chef competition.

His teacher, Dawn Martin, said the win was exciting since he’s become like an “adopted child” to her with all his time in the kitchen.

In his three years, Parish has matured from a shy boy who hated making desserts to an independent chef that guided his cooking team to a perfect-score pastry at the March state competition, Martin said.

“From this standpoint, you just get so excited to see what they’re going to go and do,” she said of his future in the culinary world.

Chef Malcolm Orsen, who mentors South culinary students, said Parish has shown his dedication and maturity by putting a great deal of time and research into his dishes.

A chocolate mousse recipe he led his team to create for a March competition took him four to five months to fully develop, and he’s still working on perfecting it to enter in the upcoming Taste of Forsyth.

For the national Art Institutes cook-off, Parish will likely get his menu Monday, giving him about three weeks to determine how to prepare the food.

“I’ll be a bit nervous during the first 30 minutes and after that I’ll just get into the routine,” he said. “I’ll have practiced enough and know what I’m doing.”

Parish is hoping for a win at the competition, since the full scholarship would guarantee that he’ll be one step closer to his goal of opening his own restaurant.

Until then, he’ll always be cooking something up.

“I haven’t changed my mind yet,” he said. “I still love this business.”