Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

Two Hornets compete in top six at culinary contest


Allie Hurley

Chris Kimzey, Madison Heithoff and Nicole Horrocks spend their Wednesday at the Taco John's test kitchen for the Taco John's Culinary Cup competition.

Two Pine Bluffs Hornets were one of six teams to show off their breakfast creations in the final round of the Taco John's Culinary Cup competition.

Taco John's sent out information about the Culinary Cup competition to all the high schools around Wyoming. This year, 66 recipes were submitted. The top six recipes competed to be in the Taco John's menu for a limited time.

On Wednesday, Madison Heithoff and Chris Kimzey, Seniors at Pine Bluffs Jr./ Sr. High School, had the opportunity to cook in the Taco John's test kitchen in Cheyenne. Heithoff and Kimzey created a Churro breakfast sandwich.

"It was pretty exciting," Kimzey said.

"It was pretty unexpected," Heitoff said.

When the team arrived at the test kitchen, they went to orientation and received chef coats with their names on them, along with a backpack full of goodies for the day. Heitoff and Kimzey were the second team to present. The teams had an hour and a half to cook, present the entree in a way it could be served in a drive-thru and then answer questions from the judges. The judges for this year's Culinary Cup were Natalie Thompson, Johnson and Wales University; Ted Stoner, Stoner Consulting; Shawn Eby, Vice President for Operations at Taco John's International and Bob Karisny, Vice President for Menu Strategy and Innovation at Taco John's.

"It was exciting to shake hands with the president of Taco John's and meet other professionals in the culinary industry," Kemzey said.

Chefs who cook in the test kitchen helped the team, since the team was unfamiliar with the kitchen. Heitoff said the team had no idea where anything was. She said the cooks pointed them in the right direction.

"When we arrived, the team before us was finishing up. They were on top of things and knew were everything was at that point. Seeing them know where the tools were was a bit intimidating," Heitoff said.

"The chefs were very helpful while we were there. They were very friendly and willing to help us out," Kimzey said. "It was fun to work in the kitchen with their head chef. The whole experience overall was awesome."

Heitoff said the team was really nervous to present in front of the judges. However, the judges were really nice and the team had nothing to worry about. Heitoff said her favorite part was going in front of the judges and talking about the creation.

At 4:30 p.m., the winners were announced. The French Toast Burrito, made by Rachael Wright and Shayna Hodge of Riverton High School, received second place. Each member received a $250 scholarship. The Cheerful Breakfast Chalupa, made by Sierra Huston, Patrick White and Sydney Montoya of Cheyenne East High School, won the competition. Each team member received a $500 scholarship.

Nicole Horrocks, Pine Bluffs High School Family Consumer Science teacher, said she was at the compition to support her students and get them to where they needed to be.

"I was their chauffeur," Horrocks said. "We were able to tour the first Taco John's ever built and play with the new Coke Freestyle Machine, the first one in Wyoming."

During the competition, Horrocks could sit and watch, but couldn't say anything. This was one of her biggest struggles throughout the whole process. Heitoff said she would ask Horrocks for her help or opinion. Horrocks said she could only say 'I can't say anything'.

Horrocks had her ProStart class make a breakfast entree. She said she thought it would be a good opportunity for the students to use their creativity and culinary skills. The students were able to make their creations in the ProStart kitchen at the high School. Once the entrees were completed, the teams submitted a picture along with the recipe.

"I've never seen students work together as well as they did with this contest. They were all motivated and interested," Horrocks said.

The judges said Heitoff and Kimzey worked well together. Heitoff said she felt like an overbearing older sister. When she was told she had to make breakfast, Heithoff said her original thought was to make something sweet, because that's what she would want.

The team first thought of a bacon stuffed churro dipped in spicy chocolate. The team found out it wasn't as good as it sounded. Heitoff said even though the first entree was no good, they still kept the churro idea. They played with the idea and came up with making it a burrito. They added bacon, sausage, cheese and eggs.

"We ended up with something pretty tasty," Heitoff said.

"I'm so proud of them. They did an outstanding job. I knew they had something when they created the churro. I thought it was so unique," Horrocks said."It was a real pleasure to be a part of the process and I would like to continue this next year."

Heitoff said the best part about creating the entree was being able to eat it. Kimzey agreed. However, there was a lot of trial and error. Heitoff said they kept making the size of the churro bigger and had trouble cooking the churro all the way through without burning it.

"We didn't expect anything to come out of it," Heitoff said. "We went through the steps and ended up making something pretty cool."

"Students submitted 66 recipes this year. They were all very good. It was very difficult narrowing the field down to the six teams who will compete for the championship," Karisny said. "These young chefs and their teachers should feel very proud they've made the finals. This is their state championship."

Taco John's operates and franchises over 400 quick-service restaurants in 25 states. Privately owned, the business opened its first restaurant in 1969 in Cheyenne. Taco John's prides itself on serving generous portions, menu items prepared fresh to order, high quality ingredients and special recipes, seasonings and sauces. For more information, visit


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