Healdsburg High School Junior Heading to Culinary Nationals
Healdsburg High School Junior Hadley Rueter is traveling to Atlanta, Georgia in June to compete in the SkillsUSA National High School Culinary Competition. Rueter had a hard journey, beating out over 70 competitors across the State of California to make Nationals. She is a good swimmer for Healdsburg High School, specializing in the breaststroke and is a volleyball player in the fall along with being an AP student. Rueter just finished up NBL Championships where Healdsburg placed Top 5 in both boys and girls and Rueter finished top 10 in the 100 breaststroke. Rueter has finished her AP testing and with finals approaching her life is beginning to get busy.
Rueter is a Healdsburg native and went to St. John the Baptist Catholic School before attending Healdsburg High along with her brother, Lincoln, who is a Sophomore at Healdsburg. Rueter has always had the culinary arts in her life as her parents both went to the Culinary Institute of America.
"I have been cooking since I was probably like 4 or 5 with my parents. They both went to the Culinary Institute of America so they've always been cooking as well so it was just kind of like natural, I guess", Rueter said about her inspiration to cook. She credits her boyfriend, Healdsburg High Senior Eliot Gomez, for introducing her to the competition, "In the competition, I found out about it through my boyfriend, Eliot, who competed his Freshman and Sophomore year, and he introduced me to it and he told me it was pretty cool." Rueter took her boyfriend's advice and signed up to compete, eventually making it to Atlanta for the first time last year where she competed representing the State of California.
At Healdsburg High, Rueter has had the opportunity to be a part of one of the best culinary programs in the county, with Derek Corsino as the lead instructor. Corsino was featured in Season 7 of the Food Network's Spring Baking Championship and in an interview with the Press Democrat in 2021, he said this about why he wore an HHS bracelet in every episode of the show, "Yes, I did this for glory and fame, but at the end of the day I also want my students to watch something and be really happy to see their teacher up there working hard." Corsino has been on the Food Network multiple times since 2011 and has taught the young Healdsburg High cooks who come through his class hard work and the skill to cook great food. The program has pushed out many talented young chefs and is possibly the top program among high schools in Northern California. Rueter said this about him and the program, "We have a great culinary program. It's run by Derek Corsino who is my instructor and he's really great with providing all the resources. If it's food, cooking tools, anything you need, and just moral support. If he has an idea for something I can try making, or if we come to road bump, he's always there. I think that's been pretty instrumental for my success." Healdsburg High School has some incredible facilities for a High School Culinary Department. One of those things is a full size commercial kitchen which gives the over 100 students participating in culinary classes, a chance to cook like a professional chef, in a professional's kitchen. Rueter said this about the Healdsburg facilities, "The facilities provided at Healdsburg High School are really great. No one has anything like them."
This year, heading into her competition, Rueter felt she needed to defend her spot until she couldn't anymore and said this about making it back, "It feels good, I'm excited to go to Atlanta, again." Rueter prepared for the competition last year in a commercial kitchen, running through the competition timeline for a week and she prepares to do much of the same this year, "This year will be a lot of the same, but I do already have some of that muscle memory from last year so it won't be as much. It will just be practicing the dishes and maybe one full run through of the competition." At State Finals, this year, Rueter placed first but Healdsburg High School also took third with Sophomore Julia Dolph who finished behind Ari Nourmand of Beverly Hills High School which shows the pure dominance Healdsburg High has when it comes to cooking. Rueter will head to Nationals in June to take on the best of the best in a tough competition.
In the SkillsUSA Culinary Arts Competition this year, the young chefs competing will have a tough task facing them. They are the best High School cooks in America but are looking at an uphill battle. The competitors will face a 4 course meal, a written exam, a knife skills competition, a butchery competition and will also be scored on their sanitation and technical skills such as their methods of cooking and their equipment use. They will also have to complete a menu to pair with the 4 course meal they prepare, a resume and will have to complete the SkillsUSA Professional Development Test. All of this will be graded out of 1000 points and this competition will take under 6 hours. The competition will center around one of the most consumed animals on Earth, the chicken.
The competitors will start by butchering a chicken into 2 breasts, 2 legs and 2 thighs, but they must keep the leftovers for a stock they will make later. They will then go into the knife skills portion where they will dice a 1/2 onion into 1/4"x1/4"x1/4" pieces, chop a 1/4 bunch of parsley, perform a tomato, concasse, dice vegetables in to 1/2"x1/2"x1/2" cubes and finally, julienne carrots into 1/8"x1/8"x2" slices. They will then make a stock using the leftover bones and trimmings from the butchered chicken, water, diced vegetables and herbs. They will then make an appetizer that must contain a protein component and a flatbread made from non-yeasted dough. Three vegetables are required and one must be the tomato concasse prepared earlier in the competition. They will then prepare a clear soup of their choice with a vegetable garnish. These two first courses give the competitors a chance to show their skill and style of cooking.
The 3rd course is Entrée 1, which is composed of sauteed chicken with at least 2 vegetables that display distinct knife cuts and one must be sauteed. Entrée 1 must be served with pan sauce or a derivative of a mother sauce. The 5 mother sauces of cuisine are béchamel, velouté, espagnole, hollandaise, and tomato. The 4th course is Entrée 2, which is braised chicken with appropriate, properly braised vegetables from the knife cuts. The side is roasted potatoes and the sauce is a fortified reduction of braising liquid. The whole 4 course meal will be graded out of 500 points and the sanitation shown throughout the competition and cleaning up after will be graded out of 150 points. The technical skills shown throughout the competition will be graded out of 120 points. Knife skills are worth 50 points and butchery is worth 45 points. The exam which is The American Culinary Federation Certified Fundamentals Cook Exam will be worth 100 points and anyone who passes with a 70% or above in the written part and a 75% or above in the cooking part, will recieve ACFCFC Certification which would be huge for a competitor as it would show a perspective employer the skill of the applicant. The menu is worth 10 and the Professional Development Test is worth 25 which brings the competition to a total of 1000 points.
Hadley Rueter has to balance her cooking with her studies and her sports and when asked how she does it, she responded with, "Well, sometimes, I don't. It's definitely a juggling act especially during April which is our State Competition, lead up to our NBLs (in Swim) and AP testing so I've kind of just gotten over the hard part so it's easing out. AP testing is going to be done and then I'll move on to cooking so I'm just managing my time. I'm chipping away little by little at my cooking, focusing on what I need to focus on with my studies and I'm enjoying swimming." Rueter wants to study Environmental Science, Sustainability Studies and Food Science at UCLA, Cal Poly or UCSB and pursue a career in solving Climate Change through the Food Industry. She had this to say, "It (cooking) kind of inspired me to find out about how horrible the Food Industry is on the environment so I kind of want to solve Climate Change through the Food Industry." Rueter has a bright future ahead of her and is already paving her way right now.