Dishing the Dungeness: Culinary students get feel of real-world eating at Crab Festival

PORT ANGELES — Students from the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center honed their crab cracking skills over the weekend as they shelled thousands of crustaceans at the seventh Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival.

The skills center’s culinary arts program students have joined the Crab Feed booth for several years now, but this year their participation was ramped up, said Steve McCabe, Crab Feed captain.

“This is the first year we’ve gotten them really involved,” he said, adding he will ask the students to join him again next year.

The additional support form skills center students got the meals out much quicker, said Scott Nagel, executive director of the Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival, on Sunday.

“They can get a full crab meal out in about 30 seconds.

“And the crab cookers can make up about 400 and hour.”

Denise Dahll, culinary arts teacher, said the experience of serving up meals for the thousands of guests and working outside of a laboratory environment was helpful to the students.

“It gets them experience doing this stuff in the real world,” she said.

About 40 students volunteered their time throughout the festival.

“It has been really helpful to teach us how to work with people, and it is a lot of fun to work with food,” Kayla Twiggs, a senior student in the culinary arts program, said.

Twiggs said she hopes to break into the restaurant business working at the front of the house, more with the guests.

Kelly Robideau, a freshman in the program, said she hopes to work in the kitchen one day.

“We’re learning what it is like to really work at a restaurant,” Robideau said.

Some of them had never cooked Dungeness crab before showing up at the festival Friday night for the community feed sponsored by the Peninsula Daily News.

“On Friday, we got them out here and showed them how to shell it and cook it,” McCabe said.

Cooking crab is something that runs deep in McCabe’s history.

“I’ve known how to shell a crab since I was probably about 6,” he said.

“My dad used to crab, and we’d have it every Sunday.”

Sunny Farms Country Store of Carlsborg donated the corn served at the Crab Feed booth, Nagel said.

“So we decided to donate the cost of the corn back to the skills center,” Nagel said.

“So it is something that just keeps on giving.”

15,000 estimated at festival

Nagel estimates that more than 15,000 people attended the three-day festival, which concluded Sunday afternoon at the foot of Lincoln Street.

Thousands of crabs are caught and delivered to the festival just before and during the festival, he said.

“If someone has never had a crab that is fresh, they don’t know what they are missing,” Nagel said.

“It makes a world of difference.”

Next year, he said the festival is looking to attract some national attention by inviting food writers from various publications to attend.

“We really want to increase our national presence,” he said.

“We already have people from all over the place — but we would like to see even more.”

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Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at [email protected]

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