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Midwest students compete for culinary scholarships and awards

More than 70 high school students measured, sliced and sautéed their way through Johnson County Community College's annual cooking competition in February. For the third year, JCCC's WHCA High School Culinary Team Competition drew high school students from across the Midwest to the Wylie Hospitality and Culinary Academy to compete for $1,000 scholarships and the "Best in Show" title.

Associate Professor Mary Berg, one of the event organizers, said, "This was a great way to bring potential students onto campus from all over the region. They were impressed with our state-of-the-art facilities and high-tech equipment, they got to meet and talk with our culinary students and faculty, and they had a fun time showcasing their cooking skills."

Hot competition

Fourteen teams — consisting of two to four members plus an alternate — competed this year.  Berg said although competition was tough, teams were measured against a standard rather than each other, so medals and scholarships were awarded based on scoring criteria. The winning team was the Herndon Career Center from Raytown, Missouri, with Chef Mike Chrostowski as the teacher and coach. Each student on the "Best in Show" team received a $1,000 scholarship from the JCCC Foundation. Other teams were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals, depending on their scores.

Teams demonstrated culinary knowledge, basic kitchen skills and creative abilities by preparing two identical meals consisting of a starter; entrée with protein, vegetable and starch, and a dessert. One meal was for display and the other was rated by judges from the food service and culinary education industries.

A warm welcome

The one-day event also provided JCCC students with an opportunity to put their hospitality and customer service skills to work. According to Berg, "Our students prepared and served breakfast and lunch and staffed a hospitality room for the teams. We also hosted games, giveaways and lots of fun activities to fill out the day."

JCCC's Hospitality Management program sponsors the annual competition. Coordinating committee members are Berg, Assistant Professor Michelle Riley, Associate Professors Jason Gray, Aaron Prater and Ed Adel, and Professor Jerry Marcellus.

Focus on your future

Looking to put an edge on your culinary skills or sharpen your existing career? Contact Carol Sparks at 913-469-8500, ext. 3626 or by email to find out more about JCCC's culinary education opportunities.