Culinary student cooks up the gold

Eric Fosbenner, a junior, won the SkillsUSA state competition and qualified for nationals.
Posted on 04/19/2023
Eric FosbennerBy Gary Weckselblatt

Eric Fosbenner, a junior at Quakertown Community High School and Upper Bucks County Technical School, won the Gold Medal at the SkillsUSA state competition in Culinary Arts.

Eric and three other UBCTS first-place finishers - Taylor Diehl of Palisades (Commercial Banking), and two Pennridge students, Jules Strouse (Action Skills) and Sage Szumski (Related Technical Math) - will travel to Atlanta for the SkillsUSA national competition June 19-23.

“I’m feeling really really good, not only for me but for the other three students as well,” Eric said. “That’s really cool. It’s just amazing to see all of the other skills in the competition. It feels great to represent Pennsylvania.”

Though only Gold Medal winners qualify for nationals, five other QCHS students medaled in the state competition. Junior Georgina Martinez took second place in Job Interview Skills, senior Marley Guise was third in Crime Scene Investigation, and juniors Isabel McCarty, Madison Nelson, and Jessica Wu were third in the Health Knowledge Bowl.

“These students had their hard work pay off and we are incredibly proud of their fantastic accomplishments,” QCHS Principal Mattias van 't Hoenderdaal said.

Eric didn’t begin taking culinary classes at UBCTS until his sophomore year. His talent quickly showed as he finished second in the district competition. “I just loved it, and have met a lot of great people,” he said.

UBCTS culinary instructors Amber Underdown and Larry Fortunato described Eric as "a well-mannered, determined young man who loves the kitchen. He enjoys learning about food and is willing to put in the work to take his ideas to the next level. Chef Fortunato and I are very proud of him as instructors and look forward to nationals."

Eric has also worked with Chef Tyler Baxter of Northampton Community College who helped Eric “game plan for states,” he said.

“In my time spent with Eric, he showed his passion and dedication for the Culinary Industry, and came to NCC with a great sense of what he needed to accomplish,” Chef Tyler said. “I was happy to help guide him in a more direct path to understand the timing and needs for his specific challenge, and he was incredibly receptive and willing to adjust and alter his prior understanding to the task at hand.

“He then put all of these small chats into practice directly afterwards and began cooking his heart out to what I can only assume got even better by the day of the competition. I was thrilled to see him be confident and positive towards any critiques or criticisms that I may have had, and he absolutely put them into practice on the day of the actual competition!

“Overall, It was truly a pleasure to be able to work with someone who clearly shows all of the appropriate and necessary skills to be successful in this industry and be able to move on and make a career out of all of the hard work that is necessary to thrive moving forward.”

SkillsUSA set the menu for the competition. Eric prepared Lemon Chicken Romano, rice pilaf, steamed carrot and green beans, and a Waldorf salad.

Another of Eric’s mentors is John Greenwood, chef and owner of The Rockhill Filling Station in Perkasie. Eric has worked there for about a year as part of the UBCTS co-op program.

“The experience he has given me contributed so much to my success,” Eric said.

“That’s rewarding to hear on a personal level,” Chef Greenwood said. “I try to push the students to be creative and not just do ordinary things. Eric is very talented. His knife skills are very, very good. He’s creative and I think with enough opportunity he’s going to become a great chef.”

Mr. Greenwood said his restaurant has included a duck breast special on the winter menu. But it wasn’t until Eric prepared it that “it was a top seller and people loved it,” he said.

Eric says he enjoys cooking different foods but his favorite is preparing meats. He’s worked with pork, chicken, duck, turkey, venison, and even alligator. “It really makes me happy when people said I loved the food,” he said. “Butchery is one of my favorite things to do.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529- 2028 or [email protected].
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