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A-B Tech Team Wins Culinary Gold

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

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.

A-B Tech Culinary Team Brings Home the Silver

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

ASHEVILLE, NC – A-B Tech‘s Culinary Team won a silver medal in national competition. Team members are, from left, Stephen Hertz, Sidney Ann Caton, Tracy Williams, Jonathon Zetterholm, Team Captain Danny Schwalje and Team Coaches Frederick Snyder and Charles deVries.

A-B Tech’s Culinary Team won a silver medal in the American Culinary Federation Student Team Championship July 26 in Grapevine, Texas.

“Winning the silver at the national level is exceptional,” said Bronwen McCormick, Culinary Arts and Hospitality Education chair. “There are only a handful of people who are able to do that.”

The competition requires student teams to prepare 24 plates of a four-course signature meal, while also being judged on their floor skills. Medals are awarded based on the number of points teams earn from a possible 40. A score of 36 is needed to receive gold.

A team from A-B Tech has made it to nationals five times in the past eight years after winning first place in state and regional competition. This year’s team faced student chefs from the Joliet Junior College in Illinois, who won the only gold medal in the competition; Oregon Coast Community College and the Culinary Institute of America.

“I am extremely proud of our team, and enjoyed working with them the past 10 months,” said Chef Charles deVries, Hospitality Education Instructor and a team coach. “During the pressure of a national competition they were calm, and organized. They communicated well and enjoyed working on what they love to do – cook.”

Danny Schwalje serves as team captain while each member prepares a course. Members are Jonathon Zetterholm (appetizer), Stephen Hertz (salad), Tracy Williams (entrée), and Sidney Ann Caton (dessert). Culinary Instructor/Chef Frederick Snyder also serves as coach for the team.

“The team was excited going in and coming out of the competition. Over the course of the year, they all have grown and will take with them the satisfaction of being a part of a select group in the nation – the best of the best,” said deVries.

Keith Schwock, a 2010 A-B Tech Culinary Technology graduate, was awarded a gold medal in the National Student Chef of the Year at the competition. “To watch him cook at that level gave me goosebumps,” said McCormick. “He is a real A-B Tech success story.”

Schwock is currently training under Master Chef Kevin Walker at the Cherokee Town and Country Club in Atlanta. For the second year in a row, an A-B Tech graduate competed for the National Student Chef of the Year. Daniel Gorman, who also works at Cherokee, won a gold last year.

Cynthia Romstadt, a 2009 Culinary graduate, served as the apprentice to Kyongran “Alex” Hwang in the Pastry Chef of the Year competition. Alex, assistant pastry chef at Cherokee, won a gold medal and first place.

“Cynthia was outstanding to watch during the competition – so efficient, so confident, and so skilled and motivated to win,” said Sheila Tillman, Associate Dean for Hospitality Education.  “She later said that she has caught the competition spirit and hopes to compete for Student Chef of the Year in 2012.  We were all quite proud of her accomplishments.”

A-B Tech’s Gorman Named “Best Young Chef in the Americas”

Monday, July 25th, 2011

ASHEVILLE, NC – Daniel Gorman, an A-B Tech graduate and a sous chef at Cherokee Town Club in Atlanta, has achievements and awards that are the envy of chefs twice his age. But his impressive culinary career almost never happened.

“When I was in high school, I had planned to go to Chapel Hill for business. That was my big goal,” Gorman said. “At the last minute, I decided I didn’t want to sit behind a desk all day.”

Drawing from his passion for cooking for and entertaining his friends, he enrolled at A-B Tech to study culinary. “My mom was completely behind me, so that was great.”

In 2007, Gorman was a member of the A-B Tech student culinary team that won the American Culinary Federation’s (ACF) national competition two months after he graduated. Three years later, he was named the Southeast Region Student Chef of the Year and National Student Chef of the Year.

This summer, Gorman, 23, won the Hans Bueschkens World Junior Chefs Challenge semifinals for the Americas, leading the ACF to dub him the “best young chef in the Americas.” He will compete in South Korea for the right to be called the best young chef in the world in May 2012.

During the June competition, junior chefs had four hours to produce eight portions of a three-course meal (appetizer, main course and dessert) featuring a list of required ingredients. A panel of judges evaluated the contestants’ performance and menus and determined Gorman to be the winner.

Gorman practiced 30 hours a week to prepare for the competition, in addition to the 50 hours a week he put in as sous chef at Cherokee. “It’s an honor big time. It’s exciting to take the next step. I didn’t expect to go all the way,” he said.

Canada placed second, earning a silver medal, and Chile placed third and took home a bronze medal. Chefs from Ecuador and Venezuela also competed in the Americas challenge during the Canadian Culinary Federation’s 2011 National Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Gorman’s menu focused on his own style of food, which he calls “New American with a focus on Southern cuisine.” His winning menu consisted of Kobe flat iron steak with red onion jam, asparagus salad, herb yogurt and Parmesan lavosh; buttermilk-braised halibut with pink-eyed pea cake, fava bean purée, corn relish and mustard gastrique; and strawberry cheesecake with a margarita cake inside, mint sauce, strawberry compote, and strawberry soda with sour strawberry bubbles.

Gorman won’t find out until March what cuisine he needs to prepare for the World Junior Chef title, so he is working on a budget to pay for trip until then. “I will have to take an apprentice and my coaches. I also want to take my mom, who has been so supportive. I am figuring it will cost $30,000,” he said. “I have a lot of good mentors, (Chefs) Kevin Walker and Heather Hurlbert, and 16 cooks behind me that support me at Cherokee Town Club.”  The ACF and Custom Culinary, Inc. also support him.

“South Korea is going to be interesting. It will be an extreme change in environment. I will have to have a translator,” Gorman said. “I am nervous about competing against chefs all over the world.”