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Denfeld grad attends national culinary skills conference

Matthew F. Johnson: part-time student, full-time chef in the making. Last month, Denfeld senior Matthew Johnson graduated with the class of 2013, then went on to compete against 49 contestants his age in a culinary cook-off. "I've always dreamed ...

Matthew F. Johnson: part-time student, full-time chef in the making.

Last month, Denfeld senior Matthew Johnson graduated with the class of 2013, then went on to compete against 49 contestants his age in a culinary cook-off.

"I've always dreamed of competing in cooking contests, and now I actually am," said Johnson a few days before the cooking competition.

Johnson was in Kansas City, Mo., at the SkillsUSA National Championship. Skills- USA is an organization that prepares students for leadership roles, says Johnson. The organization has many divisions which all focus on trade, industrial service and technological occupations. The category Johnson competed in is culinary arts.

It wasn't easy getting to Kansas City. Johnson had to win first place at the Minnesota state competition as a qualifier for the nationwide competition. Johnson competed against Minnesota students including fellow Duluthian Chris Stetson from East High School, who took second place. As the Minnesota representative, Johnson competed against the 49 other students from each state.

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The national conference, however, isn't just a cooking competition.

"I also go to meetings, take knowledge tests, and attend events," said Johnson.

Though many cities have had a SkillsUSA team for years, Duluth just started its team this year, and at the hands of Johnson, no less.

"I talked to my cooking teacher Glenn D'Amour, and convinced him to start a chapter in Duluth and sign both Chris and me up," said Johnson. "Considering we took first and second, and I'm now here at Nationals, he's pretty darn happy."

"I always wanted to start a chapter in Duluth, but the reality was that

at this age it's hard to get the number of students needed to open a SkillsUSA club," said D'Amour, culinary arts instructor at East High School. "I'm glad I was pushed to start this now."

D'Amour plans to continue the SkillsUSA chapter at the Duluth high schools at the start of the coming school year.

"I'll be more aggressive in offering it too, now that I know what it's about and how it works," said D'Amour.

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Johnson attributes some of his life choices to his participation in the SkillsUSA organization. He will be attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. next fall.

"I'm very anxious," said Johnson. "However, I have confidence in my abilities and I hope to make both Minnesota and Duluth proud."

Related Topics: FOODWEST DULUTH
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