Shooting for the Stars

North Stars advance to NASA Culinary Hunch Finals


Vanessa Koch

North Star members Berry and Berkiri cooking during the finals

CarolineS, Online Editor

The Hunch program provides a unique opportunity for high school students to partner with NASA. Through engineering to interior design, all CFISD schools participate in some way and allow the progression of this program. However, Cy Woods is the only school within the district to compete in the NASA Hunch Culinary competition.

In all their years competing, the Cy Woods culinary team – dubbed the North Stars – has continuously advanced to the finals. The 2019 North Stars consist of Presidents senior Duncan Boone and senior Alex Parra, Vice President junior Andre Burton, and new members sophomore Falon Bekiri, senior Carly Berry and sophomore Preston Scott. They recently advanced and competed in the Hunch Culinary finals on April 15.

In practice, every team member naturally fell into a position that allowed the group to complete their tasks effectively.

“At first, we just went with the flow but over time, we were like ‘We really have to make a plan’. I was chopping, [Berry] was on spices, [Boone] was sautéing, [Scott] was also sautéing, [Burton] was working with the words and [Parra] kinda just helped all around,” Bekiri said.

The setting for the finals came as a shock to some of the North Stars.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be in the middle of the food court. Like, I thought we were going to be in a separate room. I didn’t expect people [who were] just in the Space Center visiting [would be allowed to] see what we were doing,” Berry said.

The environment for the finals was a surprisingly different experience than what the team grew to expect from the preliminary rounds.

“[The finals were] way more [than the preliminary round]. In the preliminaries, it was just kinda more chill. Everyone was cooking in one room, and then they judged you in another room. In finals, it was one huge room. You would be cooking and then people would be judging. That’s a big difference. You heard everything in finals; every detail and all the questions [the judges] asked [the other groups],” Bekiri said.

After progressing through the preliminary rounds, the team thought they were ready for any challenges the finals would throw at them.

“It was so weird. I thought when I went to finals ‘I already did this, I’ve got this, I’ve got it down.’ But then once I saw the whole row of judges I was like ‘Whoa man, this is really big.’ We had a bunch of cameras on us, everyone was watching [us]. Even if you tripped, everyone would start laughing. Nothing went over people’s heads,” Berkiri said.

During the finals, the team grew to support each other in various stressful situations.

But also, everyone [on the team] just had each others’ backs.”

— Falon Berkiri

“It was very nerve-wracking to go up to the judges; being front and center. But also, everyone [on the team] just had each others’ backs. Whenever Andre would freeze up, we would jump in; we would make him not nervous anymore,” Berkiri said.

From their involvement in the competition, the North Stars were able to come together and bond in a unique way.

“I think just meeting people [and] just having fun [was the best part of this experience]. We’re all just totally different, all of us, like our whole group, and we just came together and we worked through it and we worked hard together. That’s my favorite part, just making new friends,” Berkiri said.

This is one experience that will stay with all the team members forever.

“It was definitely something most kids don’t get to say they got to do. And it’s something that’s an honor to do and represent Cy Woods,” Berry said.