Downey’s Delicious Talents


Practicing for the Jaime Oliver cooking competition, Steven Klistoff, Andrew Pefley, and Carlos Sanchez prepare rice pilof and chicken. Although Downey High didn’t participate in the challenge, all three students made it very clear that they are interested in cooking in the future.

Thanks to Mrs. Diane Villa, the school’s culinary arts teacher, a handful of students had been chosen to participate in Jamie Oliver’s Cooking Competition, which took place on Feb. 12.  Though DHS is no longer participating based on a decision made by the district office, juniors Carlos Sanchez and Miguel Magana, and seniors Yaritzi Lopez, Steven Klistoff, Andrew Pefley and Mariana Martinez joined together and Thursdays and Fridays after school to practice.

“I was disappointed when I found out,” Martinez said.  “When you get an opportunity like this, your hopes get high.  These kinds of opportunities don’t come often, [and] since some of us are seniors, this is our last chance to make our mark in high school.”

Many of the students have had Mrs. Villa for a few years, and have at least passed her Foods 2 class, while others have already taken Foods 3 or are currently in the class.

“I’ve always shown an interest in cooking, ever since I could work a stove,” Pefley said.

They were counseled a few days after school by Juan Magana, who works as a cook at the Embassy Suites Hotel, and by culinary teacher Mrs. Villa.  The competition sponsors provided a chef who mentors the children, money for the food that will be used at school for practice and at the final competition, tools and utensils at the final location the students competing.  Because they were no longer competing, the practicing was cut short.  Instead, they took a field trip to make up for the denial of entry in the competition.

Juan Magana and Mrs. Villa give advice that is as precious as gold to the students, such as presentation as a whole and their stations.  Many things are accounted for in the final score, including teamwork, cleanliness of stations, creativity, preparation, presentation, and taste of the dish.  Their method of training is simple: divide the students up into two teams and have them prepare the same dish.  This is to help the young chefs familiarize themselves with the atmosphere of competition.  In the end, the 2 separate plates are critiqued, the pros and cons of each pointed out, and what needed to be improved upon as a whole.

“As a whole, we work pretty good,” Klistoff said.  “We all have much experience, so we know what we’re dealing with.  We’ve got organization and timing.  We’ve got everything.”

Warren High School was among toe schools that were going to compete, but due to this final decision of no from the district, they didn’t participate.  The office feels that Jamie Oliver, the chef hosting the competition, was trying to turn the competition into a reality television show, thus proving to be not beneficial towards the students.