Andre B. Malabanan

Staff Writer

Two gold and five bronze medals – these are the latest pride of the culinary program of LCCC as seven of its competing students at The Greater Northeast Ohio Culinary Classic won awards held at the Norton Culinary Arts Center in January.

The annual competition spearheaded by the American Culinary Federation was attended by both professional and student chefs coming from different schools across Ohio and other states. For this year, seven schools and an estimate of 20 professionals in the industry participated in the competition. LCCC has seven culinary students who were chosen to compete and won medals.

“First of all, they had to go through a training,” said Adam Schmith, LCCC culinary program chef. “Originally there were ten of them who came out to audition for it. Seven were selected to continue and of those seven, every student placed with a medal. We’ve been doing this for years now, and we finally struck gold,” he said.

Culinary students Jordan Krystowski and Jack Wagner won gold medals while bronze medals have been won by Antonia Hajnicova, Charlene Beinhard, Donald Jacobsen, Laurence Fenderson and Shontae Jackson.

Schmith said that training students went on for two months, three days a week. “Number one it’s a commitment, it’s a very time-consuming training. They would start off by composing their dishes and we would sit down and talk about it. They have to properly break it down by national standards. It has to be cooked in a certain temperature, they have to stuff the bird, they have to make several vegetables, they have to do a starch, or they have to do a grain, and then they have to compose the sauce and put it all on the plate together,” Schmith said.

One of the competition’s judges was Cleveland’s Union Club chief operating officer and a master chef himself, Lawrence McFadden. There are only 67 certified master chefs around the world, and was the reason why Schmith considered the competition to have big standards.

“They will literally take the plate, take it apart and they will discuss with each other: balance, things that could happen to the plate that didn’t happen, they will also give constructive criticisms or actually evaluation how they could change the plate,” he said.

Gold medalists Jordan Krystowski and Jack Wagner came from the same school before going to LCCC. They both initially had experiences in culinary competitions in Lorain County Joint Vocational School in Oberlin, claiming that their hands-on experience added to the reasons why they think they won.

Both gold medalists had no time for pressure of being judged by executive chefs. “They’re good but you’re gonna really block them all out, because you’re focused on you and you know your own dish,” Wagner said. “I think it’s fun and whenever I compete I don’t see people around me. It’s less stressful once you get started,” Krystowski said.

Krystowski said that she also had a chance to talk to the judges. “I spoke to a judge in the kitchen, as well as one who tasted my food, so you’d get perspective from two different people. He made a comment about how I tourne a potato,” she said.

They agreed that this experience has opened opportunities of having connections in the industry. “You meet the judges and those are people that are very high in culinary industry, so you can make contact through them,” Krystowski said.

The LCCC Culinary Team will begin training to compete at Columbus Culinary Institute in October which is also a national competition with the same curriculum that the college will host again Jan.26 and 27, 2019 at the Norton Culinary Building.