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Three Baraboo students found the odds in their favor earlier this month when their burger won the first regional “Hungry Games” and a spot on a local restaurant’s menu.

Roughly 40 high school students comprised eight teams from Baraboo, Reedsburg, Sauk Prairie and Wisconsin Dells to compete Jan. 10 in a burger competition at Baraboo High School. Local chefs worked with them to give feedback on the students’ creations and teach them about the food industry.

“It was amazing,” said event organizer Chuck Keller. “Each school had a celebrity chef who worked side-by-side with the teams helping develop their professionalism. The excitement that was in the room was contagious. … All the participants were having a great time.”

The contest was sponsored by Cooperative Educational Service Agency 5 — a co-op including public schools in Sauk, Columbia, Adams and Juneau counties — and Sysco Baraboo. Sysco donated hamburger for the event. It was intended to expose high schoolers to career opportunities in the culinary and hospitality industries.

Keller, youth apprenticeship specialist for the education group, said each school’s consumer science teacher held a classroom contest to determine who would represent the school in the “Hungry Games.” Once in the final competition, participants had an hour and 15 minutes to create a burger worthy of a restaurant menu.

Ashley Vorndran, Noah Anderson and Zoe Smith of Baraboo won with their Italiano burger, which customers will be able to order at Baraboo Burger Co. in April, according to a press release from the education group. It also will be showcased at Sysco Baraboo’s spring food show in April.

Each team had to cook two of their burgers — one for plating, one for tasting — with a potato side dish, which was judged for creativity, flavor and quality of the cook, according to Baraboo family consumer science teacher Terra Disterhaft.

The Italiano was topped with a homemade basil pesto sauce, fried pancetta, sliced tomato and provolone cheese and was served with a side of parmesan-crusted potato wedges, Disterhaft wrote in an email.

Her second team of Gabe Williams, Jason Ramos Gallegos, Daniel Mortimer and Amber McMurray won second place with their Southwest burger, topped with homemade guacamole, homemade chipotle-mayo sauce, a fried egg and pepper jack cheese.

“I can honestly say that I am extremely proud of all of my students and all the hard work they put in for this competition,” she wrote.

Judges included two Cooperative Educational Service Agency 5 representatives, a representative from Sysco and Baraboo High School Principal Glen Bildsten.

“The creativity was amazing,” Keller said. “All the celebrity judges were impressed by the marketability of the burgers that were created.”

Burgers weren’t the only things developed through student creativity. Sauk Prairie High School student Kady Peetz thought up the name for the contest, which is a play on the bestselling book series by Suzanne Collins.

Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.

Baraboo News Republic reporter