Eastside Culinary Student Goes Far At National Competition, Finishes 8th Nationwide

Culinary student Ian Vought is happy to be in the top ten nationwide at the SkillsUSA competition.

Culinary student Ian Vought is happy to be in the top ten nationwide at the SkillsUSA competition.

This month’s student spotlight brings us to Eastside’s culinary program with student Ian Vought. This past summer, Ian, a junior, placed 8th nationally in the SkillsUSA competition. This competition draws high schoolers from every state to compete in a variety of skills from masonry to web design in an effort to promote the growth of these skills in America’s youth. Ian competed in the restaurant service category where he was responsible for setting tables, seating guests, taking and serving orders, and preparing food.

While EHS culinary students have been competing in the culinary category for years, this was the first year students competed in the restaurant service competition. Ian states that he wanted to compete in SkillsUSA, but knew that the baking and pastry events weren’t for him; instead, he asked head chef of culinary program Pamela Bedford for a different option. Ian, who already works at Carrabba’s, was interested in the restaurant service option so he set to work training for the competition.

 To practice, Ian and some of his classmates who also competed in restaurant service treated Chef Bedford as a guest and took turns serving her. After weeks of practice, Ian’s hard work paid off and he continued on through regionals, states, and finally to nationals.

The competition, while starting out as just a fun idea, grew to mean something more to Ian, saying that “it helped [me] find what I really wanted to do and I realized that, rather than culinary, I wanted to be more upfront and on the service side of things.” Ian states that, while the culinary industry as a whole has always called to him, restaurant service stands out due to his personality. To be good at a service-focused job, you should know how to speak to people easily and comfortably, and Ian certainly possesses this trait.

Looking forward, Ian wants to go to a culinary school, possibly the Culinary Institute of America or Valencia College, and get his culinary degree and possibly a managing degree as well. Career-wise, Ian has been thinking of becoming a sommelier, which is essentially a wine connoisseur. At a recent Gator football game where Ian was catering, he was introduced to a wine connoisseur and discovered that he was really interested in it and that it  “opened [him] up to things that [he] hadn’t thought about before.”

It’s not often that people are interested in going into the service industry due to its rigorous and fast-paced environment. Despite the importance of the service industry, it’s also very undervalued in society. Ian comments on this, saying, “As a whole, all these people who are offering different services are overlooked and people take what they do for granted.” Ian, with a national title under his belt and a vast catalog of work experience, serves as a brave icon of this industry with all its busy shifts and unnoticed work.

No matter what profession he enters, Ian is sure to make waves and we wish him luck on his journey. Congratulations Ian!