See how ESJH’s Marley Foster turned kitchen full of ingredients into $1K scholarship meal
East St. John High School junior Marley Foster had six hours and a kitchen full of ingredients at her disposal to decorate a winning cake and bake the best breads, rolls, cookies, pastries and pies.
Nine students from high schools around the state had the same task during the commercial baking division of the 2019 SkillsUSA Louisiana Championships, held April 4 in Houma.
Looking around the room at her competitors, Marley felt out of her comfort zone.
Competition guidelines lacked the familiarity of baking cakes alongside her mother in their LaPlace home or cooking dishes in East St. John’s ProStart culinary program.
Marley swallowed the urge to quit at the beginning and saw it through, coming out at the end with a bronze medal and a $1,000 scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America.
“The stuff that we made there, I wasn’t familiar with,” Marley said. “We had to measure in grams, and I was confused. The girl next to me looked like she knew what she was doing. I didn’t know what was going on. It was complicated, but then I got the hang of it, and then it got easy.”
Focused on preparing students for more than 100 trade, technical and skilled service professions, the SkillsUSA Louisiana Championships included students from East St. John High, West St. John High and 12 other schools across the state.
Participation was optional for ESJH culinary students, according to Marley, though most of her class chose to participate in culinary arts and restaurant serving competitions.
The commercial baking competition included a written exam and a full day of kitchen work, testing scaling, mixing, preparing and baking expertise.
During the six hours of allotted time, Marley prepared a cherry pie, blueberry muffins, Danishes and a baguette. One of the most difficult tasks involved shaping icing into delicate roses on top of her “Welcome Spring” cake.
“It was something the teacher wanted us to experience,” Marley said. “I was shocked that I won. It was a nice experience, though.”
Marley took up baking during her freshman year, helping her mother complete special occasion cake orders.
While Marley plans to continue baking in the future, she’s also interested in pharmacy and is considering attending Xavier University.
Chemistry and ProStart are among Marley’s favorite subjects.
Teacher Lydia Roussell-White said ProStart prepares students for culinary careers and offers opportunities for college credit on a career and technical education pathway.
Roussell-White noticed Marley’s affinity for baking in her classwork and believes she would make a talented pastry chef.
“Her passion makes her unique,” Roussell-White said. “This is a course where kids want to be in here. They aren’t just occupying time.”
An interest in STEM goes hand-in-hand with making top quality pastries and desserts, according to Roussell-White.
“Baking is a chemistry,” Roussell-White said. “It’s a science. You can’t fake anything with it. You can’t finagle it. It has to be perfect in order for you to get a really good product.”
When she’s not baking Chantilly cakes and breads, Marley also enjoys applying makeup.
Marley is the daughter of Antoine and Jennifer Foster of LaPlace.
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