Check out video of Brye Forbes preparing for the national SkillsUSA competition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8P5D8R3R7K8
HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Brye Forbes feels at home inside the kitchen.
Forbes, a Wallace State Academy of Culinary Arts student, made history last semester, becoming the program’s first individual to win a gold medal at the state SkillsUSA competition, a year after the program garnered its first medals overall.
“It was an awesome feeling to win. I’m proud to be the first gold medal winner in the program and to represent Wallace State at the national competition,” Forbes said.
Forbes was among 31 Wallace State students to collect gold medals at SkillsUSA as the college had 55 winners overall and won the Highest Participation and Highest Membership Award. Forbes and the first-place winners are preparing to compete at the 54th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference held in Louisville, Ky., on June 25-29.
Forbes, 27, enrolled at Wallace State last fall after spending the better part of a decade working in multiple restaurants throughout Athens and Decatur. She is currently among the chefs at The RailYard and Whisk’D Café in Decatur.
“I’ve been cooking in the kitchen since I was about 16 years old. I’ve worked every position you could possibly work in a restaurant, and about four years ago I started working for a chef where I learned to make things from scratch,” Forbes said. “The passion has always been there in the kitchen. I’ve always enjoyed making food taste great and making people happy. I decided I need to take an extra step and get an education behind it. If the companies I’m working for are growing, I need to grow as well. I have to set myself up for success.”
In previous years, Wallace State’s Academy of Culinary Arts program has competed in multiple cooking and baking competitions and succeeded. No win was as satisfying, however, as Forbes’ accomplishment in Birmingham.
“This is the most professional competition we could possibly enter and it just so happens our college is a big part of it. Industry leaders know about it,” said Wallace State Academy of Culinary Arts instructor Aaron Nichols. “The publicity that comes from it is a big deal and Brye deserved it. She worked hard for it and beat strong competitors from other colleges.”
At the state SkillsUSA event, Forbes had to prepare a meal and complete a written exam as part of her competition. During the cooking demonstration portion, Forbes had 20 minutes to set up her station, 20 minutes to perform knife cuts and 40 minutes to complete her dishes with the ingredients provided.
Forbes ultimately concocted a bacon liver pate stuffed airline chicken breast as the entrée with Hasselback potatoes and green beans.
“Everyone had the same list of ingredients they had to incorporate into the dish and each was able to put their own spin on it,” said Forbes, an Athens High graduate. “I was very confident and excited with what I prepared. Of course, I was analyzing and impressed with what others did. I had a good feeling before I heard my name called.”
As with all SkillsUSA competitions, Forbes and her classmates devoted hours upon hours of practice in preparation for the event, laying out ideas as early as last December.
Forbes is now diligently preparing for the national event, and Nichols has confidence his student can return as the third Wallace State student to earn a SkillsUSA national championship, joining Joey Foster of welding (2009) and Matthew O’Neal of machine tool technology (2003).
“Brye is a strong student and among the few who join us already as a chef, looking for the paper to complement their names. I knew SkillsUSA was the perfect platform for her to showcase her skills, and we’ve both learned a lot through the process. The sky is the limit for her in Louisville and when she graduates,” Nichols said. “This experience with Brye and others who were interested means a lot because it shows they care. I think we’ll have a lot more involvement in the future because of it.”
For more information about Wallace State, visit www.wallacestate.edu.
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