Student may cook up a scholarship

April 12, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Randy Shircel, a student at the Howard School of Technology, is well on his way to realizing his dream of opening his own four-star restaurant.

The 18-year-old Elkridge student will compete in the National High School Recipe Contest this weekend with 19 others at the Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, the world's largest culinary arts school. The top prize: A full scholarship to the prestigious school, worth more than $37,000 over four years.

"I'm nervous and excited," Randy said.

More than 500 students from across the United States submitted recipes in hopes of being picked as one of 20 finalists in the three-day cook-off contest, which has two categories: dinner for four, and desserts. Food experts and professionals, including White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier, will judge the entries.

For this weekend's cook-off, Randy will prepare his own recipe for a stuffed Cornish hen with dried fruit and rice mix, and a vegetable dish of pureed beets, with snow peas and carrots. His recipes had to meet dietary guidelines set by the American Cancer Society.

He will be practicing making his recipe all this week, and already has made it 25 times for people to try.

"I've had friends taste it," he said. "I've had neighbors taste it. My mom's doctor tasted it to make sure things were right . . . and that there were enough spices."

Randy, who also attends Howard High School, has excelled in culinary arts despite his dyslexia, a learning disability that causes him to jumble letters in his mind, often making words incomprehensible.

Reading always had been difficult for him, until he opened up a cookbook one day and found that he could understand words in recipes much more easily.

"It was a challenge to write it up and put it on paper," he said about the Cornish hen recipe he submitted to the college. "A lot of the recipes were in my head. It took me three days to take down three different parts of the recipe."

Even if Randy doesn't win the recipe contest, he already has had plenty of recognition. He won first place in the culinary arts division in the 1994 Maryland Vocational Industrial Clubs of America Skill Olympics, held last month. He will represent the state at the national competition in Kansas City, Mo., in June.

He also received a $1,000 scholarship from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., as well as a medallion.

Randy became interested in cooking as a middle school student, when his parents separated. He got tired of eating TV dinners and wanted to learn how to prepare quick, fast meals. He entered the School of Technology as a freshman to study culinary arts and has become one of the school's best cooking students, his teachers say.

Randy has worked as a manager of the School of Technology's dining room, Great Expectations, since he was a freshman. Upperclassmen usually hold that position because it entails great responsibility, including teaching restaurant protocol to a staff of eight students.

Randy has been accepted to Johnson & Wales' 10-week summer program. If he passes an exam at the end of the program, he will get credit for a year's worth of study at the college.

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