Cooking up a career

RHS culinary student finds inspiration, career guidance

One of the goals of Douglas County Partners for Student Success is to show students the wide world of opportunity that awaits them after graduation. Tools like Career and Technical Education experiences and STEAM education allow us to provide career awareness, career exploration, and career skills training and education.

There are a lot of options out there, and students will often explore many avenues before deciding on a path of further study or a career field.

Photo courtesy of OCCI
Zachary Shilts poses with Oregon Coast Culinary Institute Executive Director Randy Torres.

Photo courtesy of OCCI
Zachary Shilts prepared chicken cordon blue with asparagus and white wine risotto with a butter cream sauce.

But for some students, passion sparks early.

That was the case for Roseburg High School senior Zachary Shilts, whose story highlights how important it is to have positive, supportive adult champions willing to help students follow their dreams.

As a freshman, Shilts found himself inspired in a class taught by Sheri Carson, the school’s culinary arts teacher with the family and consumer studies program for the past 21 years.

“That’s when I really fell in love with cooking, and she’s guided me the rest of the way,” he said.

For Shilts, cooking is an art form that has allowed him to meet amazing new people and inspiring chefs.

“You are only limited to your imagination,” he said of culinary arts.

Throughout high school, Shilts, who will graduate this spring, has worked closely with Carson and

Photo courtesy of OCCI
Zachary Shilts competes in the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute’s Oregon Coast Invitational on April 14.

his mentor chef at RHS, Serge Queant.

Shilts has competed in several competitions in recent weeks, including the March 18 ProStart Invitational in Salem with fellow students McKenna Book and Clara Kempton. He also competed with fellow Family, Career and Community Leaders of America team members Kaitlynn Kienel and Maryn Wicks at a competition in Portland on March 24. The FCCLA team will compete in the National Conference at the Atlanta Art Institute in Georgia from June 27 to July 3.

Carson serves as the FCCLA adviser, among her many other duties.

“I have known Zach since he was born, and I am glad that I have had the opportunity to work with him and to teach him skills that he will use as he works toward becoming a chef,” she said.

Most recently, Shilts earned third place in the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute’s Oregon Coast Invitational on April 14.

He took home a $2,000 scholarship to the school in Coos Bay with his personal interpretation of chicken cordon blue. He competed among 22 high school students from around the Northwest. The top two finishers in the culinary competition were from Pendleton High School.

Shilts hopes to attend OCCI in the fall.

The 18-year-old said he was surprised to place in the competition, which included schools known for their robust culinary programs.

“It felt really good to know that I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am now,” he said.

CALL to ACTION! Be a Champion of Youth and find a Zach in your life to spark a passion and support their dream.




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