Manual's culinary students compete to impress city's top chefs

KC Teen Summit links youth with adult mentors

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - You can't go wrong with poached pears and chocolate. Those are two of the ingredients Jessica Leon and her three teammates put into cupcakes they made for a teen chef competition at Manual Career Technical Center.

But Leon took pains to make sure the cupcakes were made with the right texture. 

"We tried to put the pears into it to make it really moist," she said.

The competition was organized by KC Teen Summit. According to Brenette Wilder, the group's founder, part of its mission is to link teens with adult mentors in their chosen field. 

"In a previous workshop, we had different kids with different dreams," Wilder said. "Some kids wanted to be chefs, some kids wanted to be writers and some kids wanted to be photographers."

Wilder said all the student chefs in the competition came out winners because they received advice from the successful local chefs who served as judges. The panel included Jasper Mirable of Jasper's, Dan Swinney of Lidia's and Shanita McAfee of Magnolia's.

Leon's teacher, Dennis Charest, said he hopes money can be made available in the future to expand the kitchen at Manual. He said limited space restricts the class size in his popular program. 

"We had a waiting list when school started in August, and I could only take 18 students," he said. Twenty were turned away.

Leon, a senior, plans to continue her culinary studies at Johnson County Community College in the fall.

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