A-B Tech Culinary Team Unites to Earn Silver at Nationals

September 2, 2019
Tech Talk

After months of training and literal blood, sweat, and tears, A-B Tech’s Student Culinary Team earned a silver rating on August 8 at the World Center in Orlando at the American Culinary Federation’s National Conference. None of the six student teams were able to achieve a gold rating in the difficult competition.

A-B Tech President Dennis King said, “The students did an amazing job representing the college in a professional manner. I am satisfied with that. They are still winners.”

The College has had 11 teams compete at the national level in the contest’s 25-year history, more than any other culinary school, and won the national title in 2007.

Making up what has been dubbed “The Breakfast Club of Culinary Teams,” are students Jamie Canton, Susan Wiley, Cheyane Verran, Abigail Coniguliaro, and team captain Brandon Kastelic. Five dramatically different personalities, who gelled into one cohesive unit once the contest began. During the conference, A-B Tech team members could be seen befriending students from other teams and even indulging in late-night pool sport with them.

Vice President of Instructional Services Beth Stewart said, “One thing that really stands out was the pressure the students were under. The ability to perform under that kind of pressure is amazing. I think that world-class reputation our department has is evident in our team.”

Brandon said the key is to be prepared for the hiccups. “There is always something happening in the kitchen and you can correct on the spot,” he said. “Once the cooking started, the hour and a half was a blur. It felt like practice. It helps that we all know everyone’s dish. You have people you can rely on.”

Teams are required to create an appetizer, salad, entrée, and dessert, and demonstrate kitchen skills. They have to have four servings of each dish prepared within the allotted window of time, with six-floor judges watching them. The food then goes to five different judges who do blind tastings.

Chefs Chris Bugher and Bronwen McCormick are the team coaches.  “We are amazingly lucky to have Chris and Bronwen as faculty,” Stewart said. “The future of our program is looking better than ever. The fact that we are able to have such incredible talent including Stephen Hertz and all under (Department Chair) Cathy Horton.”

Bugher and Hertz competed on the professional level in the individual competition. Bugher received an international bronze medal for his vegetarian cold platter in the American Culinary Classic. Hertz, an A-B Tech Culinary graduate and member of the 2011 national student team, received second place in a pourable cream cheese recipe contest, sponsored by Smithfield. He created a delicious peaches and cream dish.

A-B Tech students faced teams from the Culinary Institute of New York at Monroe College representing the Northeast, Joliet Junior College representing the Central Region, Oregon Coast Culinary Institute from the Western Region, Fort Drum, which represented the Military and Wild Card team Kapiolani Community College from Honolulu. Each team had to create an assigned classical dish each year. This year is the seafood starter course of Filets de Sole Véronique, which the team had to adapt and make it more contemporary.

One of the judges was quite impressed with the team’s Sole Véronique, saying it was so creative. “You really flipped it on its head. The grape sorbet was awesome.”

“I am proud to be a part of this great conference and grateful to get the opportunity from the school,” said Horton. “This is our next generation and I am so proud of these students. These young people are incredibly driven to be the best they can be.”

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