OAK HARBOR, Wash. - Chef Scott Fraser huddles up his team in the kitchen at Oak Harbor High School.
They are in training, after all.
It's the kind of training where the only dietary restriction is: whatever you eat had better be delicious.
"Three days a week we get to eat lamb and scallops," said student Madison Gaber, captain of Oak Harbor High's culinary team. "No complaints!"
Gaber's is a position she has been doing the prep work for since she was a little girl.
"I've always loved cooking," she said. "Ever since I was three, I was making bread in my kitchen."
Last month, the team won the state culinary championships for the 8th time in 12 years, earning it yet another trip to the national championships.
The team of five students must cook a three-course meal in 60 minutes using just two gas burners and nothing electrical.
They'll be preparing sauteed scallops with smoked curry roasted cauliflower "couscous," masala braised lamb shoulder, Indian spiced chops and a dark chocolate penna cotta, rum creme aux.
"I just know if it tastes good to me, it will taste good to you," said Gaber.
The students say the main ingredient to their long-standing achievement is teamwork and taking the time to savor the experience.
Fraser is the owner of Fraser's Gourmet Hideaway in Oak Harbor. He and his team volunteer their time with the students.
"There is a lot of opportunity for them in the culinary arts," he said. "We want to see them succeed."
Creating a program with the kind of continued success Oak Harbor has had is rarer than a steak tartare.
For the students, a national championship is so close they can taste it.
They estimate it will cost about $12,000 for the team to make the trip to South Carolina next month. They're holding a fundraiser at Fraser's restaurant April 23. Call (360) 279-1231 for more information.
Photos: Oak Harbor culinary team
Pan seared scallops
Recipe for pan-seared scallops with smoked cauliflower “couscous” and curry sauce
⅓ ea Cauliflower, cut in 1-2” pieces
½ c. Wood chips for smoking
1. Cut cauliflower and place into smoker
2. Cover with foil leaving one corner uncovered and place on high heat
3. When smoke rises from uncovered corner cover fully and take off heat
4. After 3 minutes uncover smoker and place cauliflower in food processor
5. Churn food processor until cauliflower resembles the consistency of couscous
6. Place in nonstick pan and season with salt, set aside
7. Pan Roast over medium-high heat, tossing or stirring regularly until cooked through.
1 tsp Curry Powder
1 tsp Fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp Shallots, minced
4 oz Heavy Cream
1 tsp Salt
1. Saute shallots and ginger in nonstick pan
2. Remove from heat and add cream, curry, and salt
3. Strain into another nonstick pan
Tamarind Caramel Sauce
1 oz Sugar
1 tsp Water
3 Tbsp Tamarind Concentrate
1. Melt sugar on high heat
2. When melted remove from heat and stir in tamarind concentrate
3. Cool and funnel into squeeze bottle
½ ea. Egg yolk
2 oz Basil Oil
Salt as needed
1. Crack egg and separate yolk from white
2. Whisk half yolk and 2 tsp water until pale yellow
3. Season with salt
4. Slowly pour basil oil into bowl while whisking continuously until thick and emulsified
5. Funnel into squeeze bottle
4 ea. Diver scallops
2 Tbs. Clarified Butter
1. Melt butter on high heat in small metal pan
2. Dry and salt scallops
3. Place scallops onto pan
4. When bottom is seared to a golden brown, flip scallops in order of which you placed them into the pan
5. Reduce to low heat, continue cooking
6. When cooked thoroughly, remove from heat and transfer scallops to cutting board
1. Place curry sauce on plates within long rectangle stencil
2. Top with cauliflower couscous
3. Slice scallops in half horizontally and place on top of couscous
4. Garnish with tamarind caramel and basil aioli
5. Top with microgreens