Q&A With Avon Chef, Megan Stoller

Content by Brooke Beaman | Reporter

How long have you been cooking?

This has been something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve never wanted to do anything else, but I’ve had an interest in cooking since I was little. I would always watch Emeril with my mom at home after school. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. This is my first year at Area 31 in the Culinary Arts program, and it has changed my life drastically. I love it so much. I’ve been cooking for a long time. I would call myself a cook, but not a chef yet. I like to say that I’m pretty good in some stuff.

What would be your dream job?

My dream job would be to work for Food Network. You know, people think ‘Oh, you want to be a chef?’ and I do want to be a chef, but I don’t know if I want to own a restaurant. It’s a lot of work. We have a Facility and Design book, a college level book that we have in class. It talks about all these detailed things about owning a restaurant, and it’s just crazy, and I don’t know if I want to give myself that much stress. [Owning a restaurant] is for some people, and not for some people. I like to do different things, and working at Food Network in the test kitchens would be awesome. Or having my own TV show, that would be really cool too, I would love that.

What got you interested in cooking?

My grandma and my aunt like to cook a lot. I think that it’s funny that I want to be a chef and my mom literally hates to cook. They always think, ‘Oh you always cook for your family?’ and well, I try, but with school and work it’s just so hard to manage all of that.

What is your favorite thing to cook?

A lot of people ask me that, and I don’t really have a favorite thing to cook. I like to switch it up. There are a few go to meals that we have, but other than that, I like to make lots of new things.

megan stoller
Junior Megan Stoller received her award at her Area 31 location for culinary arts. Pictured is her culinary arts teacher, Stoller herself, her mom, and the representative from SkillsUSA who presented Stoller with her award. 

What is the most difficult thing that you’ve had to cook?

It’s called a Mother Sauce. It’s a Hollandaise. You have to temper the egg yolk so they don’t scramble, and you have to keep whisking in a bunch of clarified butter. It takes a lot of skill to get that sauce really good. That’s the hardest thing we’ve made. We make a lot of fun stuff in class. A few weeks ago, we made éclairs. Those were really fun to make.

How did you qualify for the SkillsUSA State Competition?

It all started in October when we had tryouts for SkillsUSA. We had to pay the $15 to be a member of SkillsUSA. Then, we tried out for the team. We had three different culinary teams. We had Culinary Arts, Baking, and then we had Restaurant Service. You could do any of those three, so I tried out for Culinary Arts. You had to try out for the team, and they only take four people. I made the team, and then we practiced. It was the same menu for both Regionals and State. I went to Regionals in January, and in Regionals you had to make the top five, and I got first place. And then, I went to State in April, and you had to get first place in Nationals and I got first place.

What did you cook for the Competition?

A cream of mushroom soup, a sautéed chicken dish, and a braised chicken dish and composed sides to go with them too.

Did you believe that you were going to win?

For Regionals, I felt pretty good, but I was kind of like, ‘Oh, I don’t know how I did,’ but when we did State, since it was the same menu, I knew exactly what I was doing. Once I was done for State, I wanted to cry because that was the best full run-through of doing everything that I’d ever done. I was so proud. I felt so good about it.

How did awards go for you?

I competed for State on a Friday morning, and the awards were on Saturday Evening. And apparently they didn’t get all the scores sent in. When we were waiting, they said that they were going to do our awards at the end. At the end, after going through all the other awards which were Construction, Masonry, and a lot of other technical programs. They get to the end before saying, ‘We apologize to the following programs who did not get their scores yet, you will have to wait until next week.’ I was so mad. Monday, I get to school. I had to live out Saturday night, all day Sunday, and I get to school Monday, and I ask Chef if he had heard anything, and he said that they hadn’t. We were in the kitchen that day, so we get our chef clothes on and get in the kitchen, and Chef told us all do go out to the dining room. Both of the afternoon classes go out there, and Chef is recording me. I go out there and I see my mom bawling, and then I realize what was going on when I saw the lady from SkillsUSA there with my medal. I started bawling.

What is the program like at Area 31?

The Culinary Arts program runs a student run restaurant, called Harvest, which is open to the public and Ben Davis students to eat for lunch. We change our menu every two weeks, it’s a lot of fun. We get to try new things and stuff, and we get a lot of insight into what running a restaurant is like. I’m doing this same program next year.

What have you done to prepare for the National Competition?

I have certain guidelines for my menu, but I have a lot more creative freedom. I have to make a salad, a protein, which has to be chicken, chicken stock, a clear soup, a braised chicken dish and two composed sides to go with that, a sautéed chicken breast with sides, then I have to cut up a whole chicken. I did that for Regional and State too.

What does your family think about your accomplishments?

They love it. They even love it when I cook. It’s really fun, and they love it.

When and where is the National Competition?

It is in Louisville, Kentucky at the end of June.

 

Photo submitted by Megan Stoller

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