ASHEVILLE NC – A team of five A-B Tech Community College students took first place and earned a gold medal during state Hot Food Team culinary competition January 12 at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, earning a trip to the American Culinary Federation’s (ACF) regional competition.
Students will compete April 26-29 in Charleston, S.C., at the ACF’s Southeast Regional conference. Members are captain Alex Harris, Caroline Williams, Ruth Solis and Daniel Radle. Kristina Costa serves as team manager and Jay O’Hannon is an alternate. The students are either in Culinary Arts or the Baking and Pastry Arts programs at A-B Tech.
“The team performed with precision and grace while facing challenges,” said team coach Chef Eric Backer. “They had a great rapport with the other teams, coaches and judges. It was a pleasure to see their confidence.”
The competition requires student teams to demonstrate butchery and knife skills and then prepare a four-course signature meal. A-B Tech teams have been ranked seven times in the past 11 years as one of the top four nationally in the competition. Since 1997, A-B Tech teams have won 15 state titles.
“This team is exceptional and it most certainly was evidenced during the competition, said Sheila Tillman, Associate Dean of Hospitality Education. “They remained focused and worked with intention throughout the competition, but also sprinkled in bits of humor to ease moments of tension. The judges positively acknowledged the team’s skill level and their interactions with each other,” said Sheila Tillman, Associate Dean of Hospitality Education.
“All of our students represented A-B Tech very well regarding their appearance, attitude and professionalism. They epitomized the word team from start to finish, supporting each other and being very gracious to our hosts and fellow competitors. Several family members and friends of the team showed up in support, which further proved their dedication to their chosen craft,” said Matthew Tracy, Culinary Arts Director and Chair.
A gold medal is awarded to a team scoring between 36 and 40 points, with 40 being a perfect score. The students sacrificed their winter break to practice and it paid off, according to Backer. “The judges made comments as to how well-prepared they were and that it was obvious how much effort and thought they had put into their preparations,” he said.