Lorain County Community College culinary arts student Georgine Nieves still retains her modest manner when she speaks about the bronze medal she earned at the Greater Northeast Ohio Culinary Classic competition that the college entered the weekend of Jan. 30. “I thought I was just going to get a, ‘thank you for coming, here’s your t-shirt.’ When they told me I got a bronze, I was literally shocked,” she marveled.
This is the second American Culinary Federation (ACF) competition that the LCCC culinary arts program has attended. The first was in October, with silver and bronze awards being earned at that time. At the most recent competition, three students and two faculty members participated. Students Georgine Nieves and Caitlin Doyle earned bronze awards and Andrew Lorince received a certificate of participation. Chefs Kristian Smith and Adam Schmith earned silver awards in a five-hour “F5” category mystery basket competition.
“I signed up for it and I was so excited,” said Nieves about the competition, “The practices and the long hours made me so tired, and I just wanted it to be over, but then the competition came and I was super excited again. It started rolling along and I hit some hiccups along the way. I was ready to throw in the towel; I was almost in tears. I thought I would never be able to get everything completed. Then when it was over, I was so stoked that I survived it and I was ready to do it again.”
There is no question that the amount of work that goes into preparing for competitions like these puts an extreme amount of pressure on the students. Students had a six-week period of time to prepare for the most recent competition hosted. “One of the things I tell students a lot is that pressure builds diamonds,” explained Kristian Smith, Culinary Program Director at LCCC, “The more pressure you take on in the culinary industry, the better you’re going to be. You’re going to be a shinier diamond at the end. It is stressful and it is a lot of work and extra time, but the skills that they learn in preparing for competition will carry them throughout their whole culinary career.”
Nieves also couldn’t say enough how proud she was of everyone who competed, and how much she enjoyed getting to work with others in the competition. Most importantly to her was getting real-world cooking experience with professional chefs and hearing new tactics and ways to complete given tasks in the kitchen. “Getting to hear their guidance and their advice, the brushing up and learning new skills and techniques will really help me along the way,” said Nieves.
The most significant lessons to be gleaned, though, were not in the awards earned. Smith impressed the importance of the invaluable skills that students at LCCC would receive from performing in competitions in such as these. “My hope is that they share with their classmates what they learn while training for competitions, because they spend a lot of extra time being with the instructors really fine tuning their craft,” said Smith. “That to me, competition aside, just the extra skills that students get are priceless.”