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East Mecklenburg students win $84,000 at national culinary competition

By Elizabeth DePompei
edepompei@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/11/18/17/OkyMZ.Em.138.jpeg|421
    - Provided
    Jones and Gamble were advised by Dale Richardson, left, and Anna Hesmer, right.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/11/18/17/aDzr4.Em.138.jpeg|313
    - HANDOUT
    Student John Gamble, left, adviser Dale Richardson and recent grad Rachel Jones in San Antonio.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/11/18/17/QxSUe.Em.138.jpeg|237
    - Provided
    Rachel Jones and John Gamble won the top prize in culinary arts Thursday in San Antonio, Texas. They each took home a $42,000 scholarship.

A student and a recent graduate from East Mecklenburg High School grabbed top prizes Thursday from a national culinary arts and hospitality competition in San Antonio. And they brought home $84,000 in scholarships to show for it.

“If you can dream it, you can do it,” said Dale Richardson, a culinary and hospitality teacher at East Meck and one of the competitors’ advisers. “And they were dreaming it the whole time.”

The competition was part of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, a nonprofit career and technical student organization focused on family roles and personal growth, according to its website.

Rachel Jones, a recent East Meck graduate, and John Gamble, a rising senior, earned the most points and won a silver medal in culinary arts. The culinary duo beat out 52 other teams from across the United States and was one of only two teams with fewer than three members.

“They really had to work hard to get the timing down,” Richardson said.

Jones and Gamble took the top prize with a wheat berry salad served in a radicchio cup, sautéed chicken breasts with mushroom sauce, braised zucchini and mashed potatoes.

Richardson said they made those dishes hundreds of times, and every time they were “delicious.”

The hard work paid off. Jones and Gamble each received a $42,000 scholarship.

Richardson said Jones and Gamble hope to go to the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

Isabel Bedoya, a rising senior, won a gold medal in the hospitality, tourism and recreation competition. Rising senior Bianca Withers also was at the competition. Withers was elected North Carolina state president of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America in April.

DePompei: 704-358-5067
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