There are only eight months left until the Youth Culinary Olympics begin – and Team U.S.A. captain Kristyn Granahan (formerly Kristyn Chatlosh), who doubles as a Joliet Junior College student, is doing everything she can to prepare for what could be the biggest competition of her career.
As part of the preparations, Granahan and Team U.S.A. participated in a friendly, practice competition with Team Canada at Niagara College in Welland, Ontario, during an Olympian Friendship Gala in January, which was telecasted on CHCH, a local Canadian News channel.
This isn’t the first time the two teams have competed against each other. In 2015, they participated in an American Culinary federation (ACF) competition in Orlando, Florida. Canada won both competitions, with Team U.S.A. receiving a silver medal. But even though they lost, Granahan said these competitions are about more than just winning or losing.
“It’s been really cool getting to work with the Canadian team and becoming friends with them. Now that we’ve established a good friendship, when we’re out there competing at the Olympics, we’ll have international support. We’re all friends, and we have each other’s backs,” Granahan said.
At both events, there were international judges, just like there will be at the Youth Culinary Olympics, which will take place in Erfurt, Germany, on Oct. 22. Having international judges present has been challenging, according to Granahan, but it has been a great learning experience and has helped Team U.S.A. think more strategically about the Olympics.
“One of the judges at the Friendship Gala competition was from Hong Kong, and he didn’t like one of our platters because it had potatoes in it. And being from America, we eat potatoes all the time,” she explained. “But it’s nice being able to get some experience being judged internationally, so we know what to expect.”
In addition to meeting with Team U.S.A. once a month to prepare for the Olympics, Granahan is finishing up her last semester at JJC. She’s also working as a JJC Culinary Arts Department lab assistant under her mentor and instructor, Chef Tim Bucci.
Granahan said without the preparation and encouragement from her culinary professors at JJC, she wouldn’t be getting the quality experience she is getting today. After her time as a student at JJC is finished, Granahan said she eventually wants to come back – as an instructor.
“My end goal is, after getting experience in the industry, I would like to teach, hopefully at JJC,” she said. “I want to become a teacher because I want to help people like Chef Tim Bucci and Chef Mike McGreal have helped me.”
The participants for the Youth Culinary Olympics team were chosen in summer 2014. For more information about Youth Team USA, visit http://www.acfchefs.org/ACF/Partnerships/Team_USA/Youth_Team_Members/ACF/Partnerships/Team/Youth.
For more information about the JJC Culinary Arts Department please visit www.jjc.edu/culinary-arts or call 815-280-2255.