Student whips up competition

Sophomore qualifies for FCCLA state


In one of the baking and pastries class, sophomore Max Wadhwa places a fresh cranberry biscotti dipped in milk chocolate and drizzled in white chocolate on his plate. Wadhwa spends almost every day in the culinary room, either training for culinary competitions or in culinary class focusing on plating techniques.

The judges gasped as the ears and arms fell off of the rat on sophomore Max Wadhwa’s cake topper, which was inspired by Disney’s “Ratatouille.”

“I didn’t know what to do, so with three minutes left, I took a piece of carrot and I took a piece of pea, and I stuck them on [the rat’s] hands to look like he was cooking,” said Wadhwa. “You have to be creative, and you have to be innovative under pressure.” 

Wadhwa competed in the Disney-themed Pastry Arts: Fondant Cakes competition organized by FCCLA on Feb. 25. Wadhwa won first place and received the Most Outstanding Award at the competition. 

There are two categories of competitive FCCLA events: Proficiency events and Students Taking Action with Recognition, also known as STAR, Marta Lockwood, executive director for the Illinois Association of FCCLA, said in a phone interview. 

STAR events are competitions held up to the national level, at which competitors are then required to be in 11th or 12th grade, Lockwood said. 

Proficiency events are held up to the state level and are for all high school grades, Lockwood said.

Before the Pastry Arts: Fondant Cakes competition, Wadhwa competed in the regional STAR Culinary Arts competition to gain experience. He could not compete in the state or national competitions because of the grade level requirement.

After the STAR Culinary Arts competition, Wadhwa decided to enroll in the Pastry Arts: Fondant Cakes competition. In preparation for the competition, student teacher Mia Pitzaferro taught him how to work with and make fondant in a week. 

“He had never worked with it before and never done anything with it,” said Pitzaferro.“He was determined to keep [practicing], and he didn’t get down on himself.”

According to Lockwood, students in the Pastry Arts: Fondant Cakes competition are judged by the appearance of their cakes, the sanitation of their workspace and how professional the students appear. 

Students must wear a clean chef coat, have well-manicured nails and cover any facial hair, Lockwood said. 

According to Wadhwa, after learning about the competitions through his Baking and Pastry class, he joined the FCCLA club at Glenbrook North.

Pitzaferro trained Wadhwa during a block every Green Day along with most mornings at 7 a.m. preparing him for the Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts: Fondant Cakes FCCLA competitions, Pitzaferro said. 

Wadhwa is scheduled to compete in the state Pastry Arts: Fondant Cakes competition today.

“It’s stressful, but in my opinion, you control the outcome,” said Wadhwa. “If you’re going to put in that work, and you’re going to put in the time to be prepared for competition, you’re going to do phenomenal.”