Anni Woods, a senior at Flagstaff High School, has received a full scholarship from the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) and will attend Paul Smith’s College in New York this fall to study baking and confectionery.
She said she wants to pursue culinary arts as a career because she “has always loved cooking.”
“I’ve always had a thing for baking, it always came so naturally to me,” she said. “…I’ve been doing this in the classroom for four years and I’ve loved every minute of it and I’ve learned so much. I thought, ‘If I want to make a job out of something I’m going to do for the rest of my life, it might as well be something I enjoy doing.’”
She has taken cooking classes throughout her time at FHS, starting with Culinary One as a freshman after passing the introductory class and progressing to Baking and Pastry and Culinary Competition and Culinary Two and Three.
She won Paul Smith’s scholarship after competing in the regional and national C-CAP competitions.
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Arizona is one of seven regions in the United States served by C-CAP, which its website describes as striving “to help advance nutrition and social justice, and equity and inclusion by providing tools for success.”
In the first round, students were given a few hours to prepare a C-CAP salad and a French omelette to test their knife cutting and cooking skills. Then they made chicken chasers for the final competition, alongside “dessert crepes filled with pastry cream and topped with chocolate sauce and strawberries.”
Students were judged on their technique and ability in multiple areas, as well as their finished dishes.
“You didn’t necessarily judge by the dish itself that was provided, but also by… your communication skills, your cleanliness, ability to follow safety and hygiene procedures, and work in the workspace provided,” she said.
In preparation, Woods and FHS’ other competitor trained every Thursday from the first half of the year. When it came time for the competitions, they packed boxes with all the supplies they needed, including whisks, pots and pans, and their knife sets. In the past, participants were also required to bring portable stoves, but this time they were provided.
The workspaces for the competition are “very small,” Woods said.
“Since we had to travel for it, we couldn’t necessarily bring everything we wanted to bring, we only had to bring the bare essentials,” she said.
She added: “We had to put all our stuff in a box. It was quite difficult and we had to bring everything, so nothing was provided. It was a bit difficult, but we made it.”
This was Woods’ first year in the competition, she said, because she was still in virtual learning in her junior year.
“I had to catch up on all that, so I’m very grateful to our younger students this year,” she said. “Our junior this year was able to participate and compete and she made the top 10 juniors – which was great.”
While Woods described herself as “artistic” and was on the swim and dive team for three years, cooking was her priority throughout high school.
She said the most important thing she will take away from her time at FHS is the kitchen experience she gained, and made particular mention of the CAVIAT (Coconino Association for Vocations, Industry and Technology) program.
“I don’t think there’s anything quite like it at home,” she said. “…There’s a different connection because it’s like going to work. You interact with other people and have to work and solve problems in a team instead of doing it individually at home. I think that’s something really important to take with me because it gave me so much skill in this area and I’m so grateful for that.
Now she is making plans for Paul Smith’s College in Adirondack State Park in New York.
“I love it here,” she said of Flagstaff, “but I don’t know, there’s just bigger and better things out there.”
She said she was also thrilled that the school was surrounded by mountains and hiking trails.
“I’m a six-hour flight from where I know so it’s going to be a little nerve-wracking, but I think it’s going to be fun. And it’s such a small school, which I’ve been looking for in a school because I feel like it’s just more connected to the students,” she said.
She felt the whole recipe for future success came together.
“I was afraid I would have to move to a city, but luckily I got the scholarship I wanted,” she said. “…It rains and snows a lot there, I’ll have to get used to that, but yeah, I’m really excited.”
Woods hopes to one day open her own bakery.
“I’ve only worked for local businesses and I love how they connect easily with the community. I always thought that was something special,” she said. “I would like to open my own business one day.”
She wanted other students to know that there are a variety of paths to take.
“Just because you don’t have a clear ace and you can’t necessarily concentrate fully in school, there are so many other options out there. There are so many trade schools and internships and opportunities available to you, and just because you don’t go to college doesn’t mean you won’t be successful,” she said.