Titans team captures national community college Culinary Knowledge Bowl

Published on: September 14, 2023
Left to Right: Chef Keith Gardiner, Will Hodges, Ila Seamans, Madison Gore, Stephanie Strucinski, Dana Brookins, Chunlee Tith, Chef Alan Romano
Left to Right: Chef Keith Gardiner, Will Hodges, Ila Seamans, Madison Gore, Stephanie Strucinski, Dana Brookins, Chunlee Tith, Chef Alan Romano

JAMESTOWN, N.C. (Sept. 14, 2023) – When it comes to culinary arts, Guilford Technical Community College's students are hard to beat. Just ask the competitors in this year's Baron H. Galand Culinary Knowledge Bowl held in New Orleans.

GTCC's team, comprised of six students (four competitors and two alternates) captured the American Culinary Federation (ACF) event. Considered the national championship for culinary schools across the country, the competition was held during the ACF National Convention.

Members of the GTCC team included Ila Seamans, Dana Brookins, Madison Gore, Will Hodges, Stephanie Strucinski, and Chunlee Tith. All were members of the GTCC culinary arts program, and some also take classes in professional baking, hospitality management, and the mobile catering/food truck programs.

Keith Gardiner and Al Romano, both culinary faculty members, were team coaches. Gardner and Romano traveled with the team to New Orleans for the Jeopardy-style competition. It was a double-elimination tournament and GTCC lost one game along the way but battled back to win in the championship match, a match Gardiner said was tight down to the final question.

"The championship match was close at the end. Our team was fast, but so was the other team," said Gardiner, mentioning this was the first time the event had been held since the pandemic. "They were hitting the questions and so were we. It was stressful for me, watching the questions and adding up the points as the questions were asked."

The competition, held on July 17, was the focal point of the trip, but much more was packed into the students' four-day stay in New Orleans.

"There were many benefits to this trip (for the students). It increased knowledge of the culinary field, they got to experience an ACF convention, and it showed them how being a part of the ACF can take their career to the next level," Gardiner said. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them."

It was a few days that Gore says she'll never forget.

"Being able to go and represent the school in New Orleans was such a great opportunity," said Gore, who graduated in May. "We were able to try amazing food, make memories and learn about different topics within the food industry. The experiences, the people, the food, and bringing home the national title are memories that will last forever to me."

Gore's teammate Seamans agrees.

"The experience was fun and educational. Meeting a ton of other chefs and networking was great," said Seamans, who also graduated in May. "Learning about new ideas, what's trending, and different cultures at seminars was so informative.

"Something I will benefit from will be how many contacts that I made and learning how different chefs started their careers."

To make the team, GTCC students had to pass a written test, complete an application, make a commitment for the trip, and explain why they wanted to go. A committee of culinary staff members then reviewed the test score, along with GPA and other factors to make the final decision on team members.

Gardiner was awarded the GTCC Foundation Culinary Teaching Chair award to cover the trip and competition expenses for students. The culinary teaching chair was created to support professional development and to improve learning outcomes for culinary students. to fund the trip and competition.

The competition is named for the late Baron H. Galand, a longtime judge for major regional, national, and international culinary competitions.

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