Lenoir City High School culinary arts students were pleasantly surprised to learn they won first place in commercial cake decorating and table setting at a recent Tennessee Valley Fair competition in Knoxville.

With the theme of “An Olympic Event,” students designed a menu, put together a table and prepared a decadent dessert.

Culinary Arts 1 students, who are learning etiquette and how to set a dinner table, were responsible for the table, Joslyn Johnson, LCHS teacher, said. The menu was created by junior Philip Marlino of Culinary Arts 3. The table took first in the Skills USA Table Setting competition.

Students in Culinary Arts 3 decorated the cake and won first place in the Skills USA Commercial Baking competition.

“We were pretty pleased,” Trinity Parton, LCHS senior, said of the class project.

Parton, who hadn’t been in a competition before, and senior Hadil Salem decorated the top of the cake with a sunflower made of fondant icing. Fondant is thick icing that can be shaped and cut, similar to Play-Doh, but edible.

Marlino shaped the black fondant figurines from a photographed design. The cake was prepared in class and most students worked on the project.

“I was just surprised, to be honest,” Marlino said about the win.

The first-place award gave him a confidence boost. In fact, Marlino said he would like to continue working in the field.

“I plan to open my own restaurant one day,” he said.

LCHS junior Joselina Lopez and senior Yuliza Garcia, who hopes to continue in culinary arts, made the Olympic rings on the cake and helped with black ribbons and white borders.

“When she told us we won first place, I was shocked,” Lopez said. “I never thought I was able to make a ring like this.”

Garcia has been in a competition before, but this was her first time working with fondant.

Garcia and Lopez said culinary arts teaches skills that can be used in life, home and parties.

Parton is in her third culinary arts class. While she has given thought about continuing her craft, she said she’s applied many of the skills learned in class.

“I apply most of the things I learn here at home, too,” Marlino said.