The “Tart” to my Future
By: Raven McNulty
It was June, the sun was blazing, my cap and gown for graduation stared back at me. I was still undecided on college, just weeks before I had made it to the finals for the Top Teen Talent Scholarship competition. I would be competing for a full tuition ride to The Chef’s Academy in Indianapolis, Indiana in just a few days. Before we get into that lets jump back a few months, I was the caption of my high school culinary team and we had just gotten 5th in the state for the FCCLA culinary competition. My heart had been set on baking since I was 8 and cooking really wasn’t my thing. After intense training and competing at Johnson and Wales I knew baking was my passion. We had been looking into The Chef’s Academy for a while but I still didn’t know if I fit there or in Charlotte. My dad came across the competition and I immediately said no in fear of another let down, not to mention the 10 hour drive. As weeks passed the deadline was approaching and my dad successfully convinced me to enter my Banana Pudding Cupcake just a day before.
Friends and family started voting and before I knew it I was in the lead for votes. Just under me was William Hamilton who constantly out voted me for weeks but my friends weren’t going to let that happen. I came out on top for votes and started preparing for competition. I baked the competition recipe twice a day for a week trying to perfect my skills and let’s just say if anyone wanted a chocolate mousse tart, I was their girl. My dad and I made the 10 hour trip from Cary, NC the day before competition. I spent the trip studying for exams since I still had a week left before graduation and thought about what college decisions I had ahead of me.
I had never been so nervous and excited at the same time. I had never been to Indianapolis and I knew that the competition was going to be a great experience regardless of the outcome. On little to no sleep we arrived at the Indianapolis campus and began to wait for competition to begin. William Hamilton, whom I thought to be my biggest competition, sat at the table next to ours making note cards while I jammed out to “Call Me Maybe.” I knew if I wasn’t having fun then there would be no way for me to win and I hoped listening to my iPod would help others relax too. Sure enough, William went to get his iPod and we were ready to represent NC the best we could. This one day, this one tart, was going to decide how the rest of my life was going to play out. As we got into the kitchen I was feeling so many emotions and with everyone running around it was hard to keep my hands from shaking. I had an hour and a half to perfect and plate my tart with garnish. As the clock ran down I had 30min to get my tart in the oven, remake my mousse and plate. To this day I still don’t know how I managed to stay composed when things went wrong in the kitchen but I’ll never forget the encouraging words of pastry chef Ben Hardy. After time was up I was beyond proud of myself and what I had accomplished, I even made some new friends too.
We sat in the conference room as scholarships and scores were handed out when my heart began to race. Three of us were left and I knew I wanted William or myself to take home first place. First William was called for third place, I was disappointed, he had worked so hard and deserved to be in second. As my name was read for first place I began to tear up. I wasn’t entirely sure what had just happened. Did I really just win a full ride to culinary school? I had made a path to success obtainable without the weight of debt on my shoulders. The money wasn’t the most important part, after the competition I was congratulated by chefs and I was told my skills/talent outweighed my experience; I knew I was going places. I had made the best decision for me. Through competition I gained more than just a scholarship, I gained confidence, a friend in William, and I guess my friends and family gained a little weight too. Without a doubt William and I are taking on culinary school by storm and let’s just say this won’t be the last time we compete. After my first week of school at The Chef’s Academy I know this is where I belong. I finally feel like I fit in and more importantly this school is the start to a very successful career. A few months ago I never would have thought a chocolate mousse tart could change my life.