Some Kansas City area students from the Johnson County Community College culinary arts program took a trip to Florida last week and walked away as cooking champs.
The five-student team won the grand prize at the International Foodservice Expo 2012, which was held at the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show in Orlando.
JCCC beat out nine teams, including eight from Florida, one from Georgia, in the competition, which included a knife skill and butchery test. Students had to precisely cut fish, chicken and an array of vegetables. Plus they prepared a four-course meal for four people that had to be on the plate in 75 minutes in front of American Culinary Federation certified judges, including two master chefs. Teams were judged on sanitation, accuracy, measurements, skill and speed. A different set of judges determined whether the food also tasted good, which is a heavily weighted standard for the competition.
Team coach Felix Sturmer, a culinary instructor at the college, said winning a “high end,” national competition puts the school’s name out there, making JCCC the team to beat in subsequent competitions.
Also, he said, “it is a good experience for the students to travel and compete against other students.
JCCC culinary students who competed in the team competition were Sophie Buell of Kansas City, Kan., Ian Denney of Kansas City, Adam Glass of Overland Park, Sophia Elmer of Olathe and Delci Reimer of Kansas City.
Since competing teams could contain only five members at the event, a sixth student member of the JCCC team, Sally Wilson of Kansas City, entered an individual cooking contest also held at the Florida competition. Wilson received a silver medal when she out-cooked 18 professional chefs who were not students.
Wilson, 20, said she developed a love for cooking watching her mother and grandmother. “They are great cooks and were my first teachers,” she said. She’s been a student in Johnson County Community College’s culinary arts program for a year.
But competing against professional chefs, “I was very intimidated. I was sure I would get last place.”
Wilson said her mushroom-inspired dish, which included pheasant breast, a mushroom sauce, butternut squash and goat cheese puree, pheasant and mushroom sausage with figs and olives, and glazed carrots won her praise and even a few offers of future employment from the judges.
Sturmer said preparing his students to land good jobs in the food preparation industry is a primary goal of the program. “At the end of the day the goal is making better culinary artists,” he said.
And the community college is backing that effort with a $12 million investment in construction of a new hospitality/culinary center being built on the campus. The new building is scheduled to open in time for the start of culinary classes next fall.