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Geneva teen heading to national cooking competition

GENEVA – Olivia Block finished cooking her three-course meal earlier this month in a statewide cooking competition with only five seconds left on the clock.

Block, 17, a senior at Geneva High School, was among 16 students in the state to compete in the SkillsUSA competition from April 11 to 13.

She’s the only student from Illinois to advance to the national competition, which will be June 24 to 28 in Kansas City, Mo.

Block aims to raise about $2,000 to pay for her trip to nationals, and she’s fundraising by selling cookie dough.

During the state competition, students were given three hours to cook the three-course meal, which included a shrimp Caesar salad, roasted chicken, potato and parsnip puree, sauteed carrots and broccoli and cheesecake mousse with berries. They were given the menu ahead of time to practice.

“I felt pretty prepared,” Block said. “I went through a run-through a few times.”

She said she had some coaching from a recent Geneva High School graduate, Dan Velisek, who is attending culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.

Block plans to attend Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., where she hopes to study food management.

She said she’s the family cook and enjoys making dishes for her siblings.

“It’s pretty relaxing for me. I love it,” she said. “It’s just fun for me.”

Kathy Jankovic, family and consumer science teacher at Geneva High School, said Block is the first student in the school’s history to advance to the national Skills
USA competition.

She said the competition not only helps students advance in a particular vocation, but also helps them learn business skills.

“Students are expected to do all their own fundraising,” she said. “They’re interacting with different people throughout the country and interacting with students in other professions.”

Jankovic said Block practiced for the state competition on weekends and evenings.

If Block wins the national competition, she could get a full-ride scholarship.

Even if she doesn’t win, she’ll likely be eligible for numerous scholarships offered through the competition.

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