Brooke Hall's perfect sweet curls have won her a trip to Hawaii.
The 21-year-old's curls are atop ice cream cones and sundaes she makes at Lebanon's Dairy Queen Grill & Chill Restaurant where she is an assistant manager.
"Cones are her best," said Robby Steen, who manages the store. "They look better than the pictures on the menu."
She's one of four who will compete in January to try to win DQ's International Top Curl Competition in Honolulu. Brooke will take a friend on the Jan. 8-13 trip, but Robby gets to go as well. He's part of the reason she made it to the top.
"Me and the manager are very competitive," said Brooke. "We had a Facebook competition to see who could make a DQ cone better, but didn't put our faces on."
Brooke won, 25-2.
"One of the two votes was my brother. I texted him and told him to vote for me," said Robby, 28, who has been making cones since he was 8. "My dad has been a DQ owner for 20 years (in Pontoon Beach, and now Granite City)."
Brooke has been perfecting her technique since she began working at the Highland DQ at 16.
"It's fun. I like my job," said Brooke, piping a layer of soft serve over nuts and fudge for a Peanut Buster Parfait. "I like to do everything perfect."
"I tell her she's the dairy queen," said Jenna Fahnestock, watching her co-worker do her thing.
Their boss agrees.
"I took over here two years ago," said Robby. "Brooke has become a fantastic manager. She's meticulous, a perfectionist, the best employee I've ever had.
"I was not surprised that she was in the top 10 in the country, but to be one of the four best in the world -- that's something you can't really expect."
Brooke already has won $500. If she wins in Hawaii, she will receive $1,500 and a trip to the 2016 DQ Expo to defend her title.
Brooke, a 2010 graduate of Highland High, lives in Marine. She usually works days, Mondays through Saturdays. But she's about to make a move.
"By the time the competition comes, I won't be here," she said. "I am going with (manager Robby Steen) to manage the Glen Carbon store. He's buying it."
What makes you so good at your job? "It's just practice. When you first start, it's really hard just making a cone in general. You have to turn it. A lot of people squish (the ice cream as they fill the cone). You can't squish it. It looks real bad and it makes it short. And you don't want ice cream in the (cone's) drip wells. It will drip on the customer's hand."
How did the competition work? "You have to go through a first round of 200 entries. I had to make a small sundae and a medium cone. You take pictures. They chose the top 10. I made it into that. I got $500. They gave us two more products to make for the next round, the Peanut Buster Parfait and the banana split form (without the toppings). I think banana splits are tricky. You have to have all the curls facing the same way."
How do you keep the curl from melting when you're taking pictures? "We have a blast freezer for cakes. When we are getting ready to take a picture, we put it in the freezer so the curl doesn't melt. That's the main thing. It melts really fast."
What's your favorite ice cream treat? "I like the Blizzards. The Strawberry CheeseQuake Blizzard is my favorite. There's not much work to them as long as they are not runny."
Do your customers notice your skills? "Maybe some people do, people who pay attention to the product. Most just eat it right away. Now that they know I am going to Hawaii, more pay attention to it."
What do you like to do when you're not making DQ treats? "I have a fiance I am with all the time. I hunt with him. We hunt deer and duck. I didn't start hunting till I met my fiance."