Mai vs. Kaewprasert: One final battle


Credit: Kris Poole-Evans

Junior’s Eileen Kaewprasert (left, she/her) and Kaylee Mai (right, she/her) compete in Wayland High School’s Cooking Club’s end of the year cook off. “It was exciting to go against one of my friends, but it was more fun to serve food I’ve made myself to my friends,” Kaewprasert said.

Kris Poole-Evans

If you stayed after school on June 8, you might have gotten a whiff of spices wafting from room B127 and heard the excited voices of the judges awaiting two highly anticipated special dishes. The goal of WHS cooking club is to simply teach students how to cook, and this year, with the help of upperclassmen in the club, juniors Eileen Kaewprasert and Kaylee Mai, the club was able to advance the skills of two freshmen girls. To end the year and to show off their hard work, the juniors decided on holding a cook-off against each other, each with one of the freshmen as a helper. Each chef had to make one dish of their choice, but they had to make enough food to feed ten people in only 25 minutes.

Mai’s dish was on the savory side.

“My dish is flat noodles with cumin lamb,” Mai said. “My inspiration behind the dish was that I have a lot of affection for my Northern Chinese friends.”

However, Yan’s father was the one who taught Mai how to make the noodles previous to the competition. She then practiced this recipe on her own, and with a lot of encouragement, she perfected the recipe for the competition.

Kaewprasert’s dish was a stark opposite to Mai’s as it was a dessert.

“The name of my dish is chocolate saffron cake,” Kaewprasert said. “It’s served the best with ice cream, which is what I did.”

Kaewprasert was pressed for time and had to use store bought ice cream for her dish. She bought oat milk ice cream since her opponent, as well as most of the judges, were lactose intolerant. Kaewprasert was very confident and comfortable with this dish as she has made it many times before. She believed this dish guaranteed her first place.

The winner was decided with a points system, with the judges, who were other students, going around the room and rating each dish out of ten. The voting and critiques lasted for about 20 minutes before the winner was announced. It was close, but Mai ended up winning 84 to 78.5.

“[The cook-off] was really fun,” Kaewprasert said. “I didn’t win, but it was still fun. Considering I have a lot of stress with school and [my family’s restaurant], Spice & Pepper, this was a great way to relax, and it was super calming.”

Despite losing, she had a lot of fun competing against Mai and would participate in another cook-off if given the opportunity. At first, she was a bit worried since she had such little time to prepare but was pleasantly surprised with how much the judges loved the dish.

“I agree with Eileen. I’d do this again if given the opportunity.” Mai said. “I definitely need to perfect some things in terms of technique and all that, but I feel as though I’ve learned a lot through this.”

The cook-off was a confidence booster for Mai, and the feedback she got, mostly revolved around the judges personal dislikes, made her realize that the critics were less about her performance and more about her specific ingredients. However, Mai still appreciated the thoughtful words from the judges.

“I’ll keep what they said with me when I make this dish in the future.” Mai said.