photos courtesy Clair O’Shoney
Recent East View High School graduate Claire O’Shoney is no stranger to the culinary competition world, but this year served up a series of surprises from competing virtually to being named the Top Teen Chef in America.
After winning first place in the National Culinary Arts regional and state competitions hosted by the Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), Claire took home first place at nationals, making her the top teen chef in the country. She still remembers the fourth-grade assignment that started it all—choosing between creating an Italian dish or writing a research paper on Italy. “I’ve never been a research paper kid, so I decided to make lasagna for my family,” she says. “From that moment [I realized] this is something that’s easy and interesting for me. The technicalities of it all—I love knowing whatever I do I can see a result from it. The steps I take and spices I add can always make something new. [I love] the creativity of it and the ability to try new things.”
During her freshman year at East View, she had the chance to begin competing in FCCLA contests through a culinary arts class. From trying her hand at new dishes almost every day during class to practicing the same meals for months got old pretty quickly. “After about the 30th time I made chocolate mousse, I don’t think I could pick up chocolate mousse anymore,” she says with a laugh. Her favorite part has always been garnishing and plating in unique ways, such as making a coral-like crisp garnish from flour, water, and oil at nationals this year. “I love creating new things that the judges have never seen before,” she says.
This year’s competition season took Claire from Corpus Christi to the screen for regionals, state, and nationals. For the final competition, she was tasked with perfecting a pan-braised chicken breast with a velouté sauce, Parmesan risotto, and sautéed green beans. At regionals and state, judges “circled like sharks” to see how students worked and used their culinary skills and techniques. The national competition took place virtually and Claire got to compete with the top chefs from other states from East View’s kitchen due to the pandemic. For her, the actual cooking wasn’t the most challenging part—it was time management and technical details like making sure her hair and outfit were clean. “It’s easy to make mistakes,” she says. “A single hair touching your collar could mean the difference in losing five points.”
But hearing her name called out of 150 competitors as the Top Teen Chef in the nation made it all worth it. “It was very, not unexpected, because we had all worked so hard for this goal. I was overjoyed and excited,” she says.
Claire is excited about the next step in her culinary journey. She was invited to intern at a prestigious New York City restaurant, Le Bernardin, but, for now, plans to study food sciences and technology at Texas A&M Corpus Christi to take a break from the stress of kitchens and competitions.