Five culinary students from AB-Tech took home the American Culinary Federation’s (ACF) Southeast Region Student Team Championship from the 2014 ACF Southeast Regional Conference held April 26-29 in North Charleston, S.C.
Team members Alex Harris, Caroline Williams, Ruth Solis, Jay O’Hannon and Kristina Costa had the highest overall score and received a silver medal at the competition. The event consisted of three phases: cold-food presentation, skills and cooking. During the cooking phase, teams prepared four portions of the classical fish starter matelote, a salad, a dessert and a chicken entrée of their choice from Escoffier: The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery.
According to their coach, Chef Eric Backer, an instructor in the Culinary Arts program at A-B Tech, the students went above and beyond for their win: When the team discovered they had no kitchen area for prepping for the cold-platter phase, they got resourceful.
“We had to turn a hotel room into a kitchen,” he says. “We had to get mini fridges from all our rooms to set it up.” And over the course of two competition days, says Backer, the team put in more than 60 hours of work — this in addition to the 20-25 hours per week they spent practicing in the weeks leading up to the conference.
The team now advances to the national competition to be held in late July in Kansas City, Mo. where they will compete with three other regional champions preparing a four-course meal with 24 plates in each course. At the Southeast Regional Conference awards gala, the American Academy of Chefs (AAC), ACF’s honor society, gave $1,000 to the team to help with travel expenses for the Kansas City, Mo. event.
Backer, who coached last year’s national team from A-B Tech, says he expects the students, many of whom hold full-time jobs in addition to attending classes, will each be logging around 30 hours per week of practice in preparation for the national event. But he says they are definitely up for the challenge. “They’re perfectionists,” he says, “which is what it takes to succeed at this.”