For the first time, a Culinary Arts student from the College will compete before the nation’s leading organization for culinary professionals at the 2010 American Culinary Federation (ACF) Northeast Regional Conference in Hershey, Pa., March 13 - 15.
Jonathan Adair, 20, a student in the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management (CAHM) program, will vie for the title of ACF Northeast Region Student Chef of the Year. The regional winner advances to the ACF national competition in Anaheim, California, in August.
Adair already captured a bronze medal last October in the Boston Culinary Classic at Boston University, another first for a CAHM student. Adair said faculty chef Tom Macrina encouraged him to enter the Boston event, and chef instructors Maria and Scott Campbell drove the budding chef to Boston and stayed to cheer him on.
It was Adair’s first cooking competition, and though he was well rehearsed in the preparation of his chosen dish—a honey and herb crusted rack of lamb with mushroom ravioli and vegetable medley—he was hampered by a balky oven that did not heat properly. So, the lamb he served the judges was undercooked.
"Technically, there is no first, second or third," he said. "Everyone starts off with a perfect score and with every mistake you make, you lose points."
Adair works as a line chef under Macrina, who is the executive chef at The Desmond Hotel and Conference Center in Malvern. Adair also is a member of the ACF Philadelphia chapter team that competed to become the 2010 Pennsylvania Student Team in a January 23 - 24 cook-off against other teams from around the state at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia chapter team came in second, behind a team from Pittsburgh that won the right to represent the state at the Northeast Regional Conference student team competition in Hershey.
The five-member Philadelphia team includes culinary students from Community College of Philadelphia and The Art Institute of Philadelphia. The team trained in the CAHM kitchens at the College's Main Campus under the watchful eyes of Macrina and the Campbells.
Macrina said the decision to enter the culinary competition was in part aimed at raising the College's profile among people seeking an education in culinary arts and hospitality management. The timing coincides with the impending opening of a new building on the Main Campus that will house state-of-the-art facilities for CAHM students. The new building, called the Pavilion, is scheduled to open in 2011.
"We will be offering new programs, and we want the industry to know what we are doing here,” said Macrina, who is chair of the American Academy of Chefs, the honor society of the ACF.
The Campbells volunteered to coach the culinary team on the preparation of a classical four-course French menu that featured an entrée of pecan-crusted chicken breast and hot tomato and fennel terrine. The team had 90 minutes to prepare and serve the entire meal. But before starting to cook, team members were tested on basic skills. These included filleting a flat fish, butchering a chicken, artistic slicing and dicing of various vegetables, and preparing pastry cream and short dough.
Adair sees the regional student competition in Hershey as a prime opportunity to network with established chefs who might offer him a job or an apprenticeship after he graduates in May. He said his interest in cooking goes back to his grade school days. While other boys his age watched the sports channels on TV, Adair said he tuned in to the Food Network.
"I never really got into sports, so I kind of just skipped that part and found something I could do well," he said. "No one else in my family is interested in cooking.” The one exception is his mom. “We argue in the kitchen all the time over who is the better cook," Adair said.
The ACF was established in 1929 and has more than 22,000 members. It operates the nation’s most comprehensive certification program for chefs and provides programmatic accreditation for culinary schools, educational resources, training and apprenticeships.