OTC students heading to SkillsUSA nationals

OTC students heading to SkillsUSA nationals

Monday, June 10, 2013

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Sarah Byrd would like to be a chef who teaches as well as cooks for people so they can learn and appreciate the healthy side of food.

"My goal is community outreach and educating people," the 23-year-old OTC culinary arts student said.

But first, Byrd will pack her knives and lead a contingent of 24 OTC students to the national SkillsUSA competition June 24-28 in Kansas City.

SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit organization serving teachers, high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including health occupation. It was formerly known as VICA (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America).

Students compete in several categories that include both tests of hands-on skills and a written test.

"The leadership skills students learn will be invaluable in the world of work," said Cindy Phillips, lead SkillsUSA advisor at OTC.

For Byrd, she will be required to prepare a soup, salad and entrée from yet-to-be disclosed food products.

For the past few weeks, she has been practicing in the OTC culinary arts kitchens honing her knife skills and cooking abilities by breaking down proteins, making soups and pasta dishes.

Byrd won the state competition several weeks ago. It was the first time she entered the event.

"I am practicing whatever I think I will need to do my work. You won't know until you get there what you will have to work with," she said. "I am awesome with vegetables."

Chef Paul Trout of OTC's culinary arts staff said Byrd wants to take what she is learning at OTC and help others.

"She has a natural talent in the kitchen. She has a beautiful outlook on life and will succeed in any life path," he said.

Byrd, who moved to Springfield when she was six, said her research has brought her to the conclusion that people need to know more about food and where it comes from.

Byrd is also studying hospitality management and knows opening a restaurant is a huge undertaking. She also wants to study massage therapy and get her yoga certificate to do life coaching.

"My food puts health first," she said.