The Joliet Junior College culinary arts department shone in the national spotlight earlier this month by not only hosting the American Culinary Federation Central and Western regional competition Feb. 3-5 at the beautiful new City Center Campus, but by also bringing home a gold medal for the student competition team.
“I am so incredibly proud of our student competition team,” said Culinary Arts Department Chair Mike McGreal. “They worked so, so hard to prepare for this competition and truly gave it their all. I’d also like to recognize the hard work put in by Chef Paul Bringas, their coach, assisted by Chef Tim Bucci. It’s faculty like Chef Bringas and Chef Bucci who truly make the JJC experience outstanding for our students.”
Five students – Ryan Clemente (team captain), Emma Prucha, Hector Gonzalez, Josh Durkovitz and Michael Rodriguez – composed the JJC student competition team, and had been working and practicing for months leading up to the competition.
They were tested with a 90-minute skills section, followed by a 90-minute cooking section consisting of a classical dish inspired by French Chef Escoffier, as an appetizer, then a composed salad component, main entrée, and then pastry – four plates of each. They were scored by judges on sanitation, skills, cooking techniques, flavors, plating, taste, professionalism as well as organization.
According to their coach, Chef Bringas, the team had been practicing two or three times a week — between 16 and 20 hours – which was in addition to taking classes, doing homework and going to jobs.
They had already fared well at a competition earlier in January at the College of DuPage, where they won the competition and another gold medal for the best student team in the state of Illinois.
And while the second gold medal achievement was absolutely thrilling for the students, it was just one half of a point that separated them from the first place student team and earning the next step, which would be to represent JJC as one of the final four teams competing at the national ACF competition later this summer.
“While we would have loved to have seen our students go on to the national competition, they still have everything in the world to be proud of in their accomplishment,” said McGreal. “What this demonstrated was that our students are capable of achieving things on the level of professional industry chefs.”
For more information about the culinary arts program, please visit: www.jjc.edu/culinary-arts/Pages/default.aspx