UA-PTC baking, culinary teams heads to Chicago competition
This year's competition takes place at Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois, ahead of the ChefConnect: Chicago Central/Western Regional Conference, Feb. 5-7.
The Culinary Competition team includes Spencer Freyaldenhoven, Drew McLain, King Joseph, Jeremiah Mesker and Alex Smith. Chefs James McAfee and Mitch Berlin are the team's coaches. During competition, the students have 80 minutes to demonstrate skills (including fileting a fish, cutting up a chicken, and pastry knife skills) and 90 minutes to prepare a four-course meal.
Wendy Schay, a PTC graduate and current baking instructor, is competing for Pastry Chef of the Year. Jeremiah Mesker is competing for Student of the Year.
For the first time, the college has a team participating in the Baron H. Galand Culinary Knowledge bowl, which is a Jeopardy-style quiz bowl that covers culinary arts, Escoffier, baking, nutrition and culinary math.
The team includes Jessica Mann of Little Rock (baking/culinary), team captain; Karen Johnson of Benton (culinary); Amanda Dickson of Little Rock (baking/culinary); Rachel Trammel of Fordyce (baking); Jasmine Armour of Pine Bluff (baking); and alternate Kiara Ford of Pine Bluff (culinary).
All of the students are pursuing Associate of Applied Science degrees in either baking or culinary arts.
For the past two months, the team has practiced on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. - noon in the second -floor conference room at the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Institute where they practice quick-response answers to dozens of problems. Outside of school, they've each spent hours studying material beyond their regular coursework for culinary arts and baking.
"These ladies have been studying hard and hopefully paving the way for future teams," said Chef Jan Lewandowski, baking instructor and team coach. "With this being our first year to compete, we're not sure what to expect, so this is going to be a new experience all around."
The students will compete against eight other teams from the Central region, which includes Texas, Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri. The students will compete for trophies, medals, and paid registrations and a chance to compete at the national convention this summer in Orlando.
"I am so excited for them because the regional conferences have lots of demonstrations and seminars and plenty of inspiration for them as they begin their culinary careers," Chef Lewandowski said.