All-female A-B Tech culinary team advances to national championship

TOP TEAM: Pictured from left, are A-B Tech Culinary Team members Madelyn Stroud, Natalie Britton, Sarah Keeney, Carolina Huerta, Nina Esquire, (captain) and Anne Gibson (alternate) with American Culinary Federation Southeast Region Vice President Michael Deihl and ACF National President Thomas Macrina. Photo courtesy of A-B Tech

With a menu spotlighting the products of Asheville-area farmers, a team of culinary students from A-B Tech won the American Culinary Federation’s Student Team Regional Championship for the Southeast at the Southeast Regional Competition held Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 10-11, in Atlanta. The win advances the group to compete at the national level later this summer.

A-B Tech faced off against teams hailing from the Bahamas, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida and Georgia, as well as student groups from two Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts schools — one of which had a home-team advantage (the competition was hosted at the team’s Atlanta campus). The winning menu, titled “Common Ground: Conversations about Food and Farming,” featured products from Sunburst Trout Farms, Looking Glass Creamery, Rise Up Rooted Farm, Joyce Farms and Wild Mountain Apiaries Honey. Team members include Nina Esquire (captain), Natalie Britton, Carolina Huerta, Sarah Keeney and Madelyn Stroud. Anne Gibson serves as the alternate.

Now the all-female team is preparing for the national championship at the Cook. Craft. Create. Convention and Show in Orlando, Fla., from Thursday, July 30 through Monday, Aug. 3., where they will go head-to-head agains semifinalist teams from other regions. According to a statement from A-B Tech, this will be the first all-female culinary team to represent the Southeast Region in the national competition.

Teams representing the Northeast compete to qualify on Jan. 17-18. Winning teams from Central and Western regions, to be determined in March semifinal events, will round out the competition. 

Culinary competition is just one aspect of the Cook. Craft. Create. Event, which also includes demos on culinary techniques and trends, seminars, a two-day trade show and ample networking opportunities. An international chef showdown is also included in the schedule.

Following is a press release from A-B Tech about the win:

Using ingredients from local farmers, the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College Student Hot Food team created a menu that helped them win first place in the 2015 American Culinary Federation’s  (ACF) Southeast Regional Competition in Atlanta January 10.

The all female team created a menu titled, “Common Ground: Conversations about Food and Farming” that features trout, goat cheese, wild mountain honey, chicken and fresh vegetables from Sunburst Trout Farms, Looking Glass Creamery, Rise Up Rooted Farm, Joyce Farms and Wild Mountain Apiaries Honey. Members are captain Nina Esquire, Natalie Britton, Carolina Huerta, Sarah Keeney and Madelyn Stroud. Anne Gibson serves as the alternate.

“To my knowledge, this is the first all-female team representing the Southeast Region at the National ACF competition.  Most certainly this is a first for A-B Tech.   However, there are more and more women entering the culinary field, opening the door for more females to participate on competition teams.  This was clearly evident at SE competition in Atlanta where 66 percent of the competitors were female,” said Chef Sheila Tillman, Associate Dean of Hospitality Education.

While their classmates had a few weeks respite from classwork over the winter break, team members were putting in extra hours at a nearly deserted campus on Victoria Road at the end of December and through the New Year.

“The underpinnings of a winning team are positive attitudes, respect for each other and willingness to do what it takes.  This team has all of those qualities and then some.  They are an amazing and very cohesive group of young culinarians that practiced with the goal of doing their best at the competition and they succeeded,” said Tillman.

According to Tillman, the judges were very complimentary of the team, commenting on how well they worked together along with special reference regarding the team’s kitchen skills, kitchen sense and menu items.  The competition requires student teams to demonstrate butchery and knife skills and then prepare a four-course signature meal within a specified time range.

”Our team was honored and humbled by our recent victory. The high level of skill and professionalism among participating teams and schools made this year an incredible experience for all involved. We are so thankful to the ACF and everyone involved for creating learning opportunities and growth for both future and current culinary professionals everywhere. Competitions like this give aspiring culinarians a spectrum of valuable insight into the profession that is unparalleled,” said Chef Dean Neff, team coach and Culinary Arts instructor.

This will be the third year in a row A-B Tech will have a team in national competition, continuing a winning tradition, including 17 state titles in the past 19 years. A team from A-B Tech took the national title in 2007. The National Conference in August in Orlando will be the ninth time the college has a team compete, more than any other student team in the history of the contest.

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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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