Lorain County Community College’s culinary students were awarded a whopping seven medals at the Greater Ohio Culinary Classic, including LCCC’s first two gold medals in the competition, earned by Jack Wagner and Jordan Krystowski. LCCC hosted the event at the Norton Culinary Arts Center in mid-January and took home five bronze medals, as well — meaning all LCCC culinary students who competed earned medals from the American Culinary Federation competition.
“I love competing. I want to be the best,” gold medal winner Wagner said. “Any time I have a chance to succeed, I’ll take it because I like to work on improving my craft.”
More than 20 professionals attended the competition among 15 local students. “It’s not like TV. We have one hour and 10 minutes to make two plates,” said applied business and culinary student Donald Jacobsen, who crafted a currant-stuffed chicken breast for the competition. All of the dishes consisted of chicken, a vegetable and a starch, he said. Contestants were also evaluated for sanitation, cleanliness, technique and more.
Preparing for competition is a regular part of his life, Jacobsen said, since he also competes as an Irish dancer. He was one of the bronze medal winners in the culinary competition, along with Antonia Hajnikova, Charlene Reinhard, Laurence Fenderson and Shontae Jackson.
“Even if you don’t place, I always tell fellow students to do it,” Jacobsen said. “It forces you to be more organized and more focused and puts you ahead of people who don’t compete.”
Hajnikova agreed. “You feel you’re part of something big. People from all over the country come,” she said.
The competition was “a big win for our program and a statement of our direction,” chef and director of the LCCC Culinary Arts Institute Adam Schmith said. “Our students performed with a high level of integrity, skill and passion for the industry and were amazing ambassadors to all of the public that visited the culinary campus.”
Training was a two-month long, three-day-a-week process for up to four hours a day, said Schmith. He is proud of the commitment of his students, he said. This was the third year his students have competed and won awards at the national competition.
Even though the competition is stressful, bronze winner Reinhard said she’s proud to take part and welcomes the challenge to stay focused.
“Competition raises your skills up to another plateau,” bronze medal winner Laurence added. “It’s more than just cooking; it’s art.”
In October, students will compete at the Columbus Culinary Institute.
In addition to taking part in competitions, LCCC’s culinary students run and work in the on-campus restaurant, newly renamed Sage & Seed, which recently opened for spring semester.
The restaurant allows culinary arts students to showcase a locally-sourced menu to the public. The sit-down, full-service restaurant is located inside the Ben and Jane Norton Culinary Arts Center on LCCC’s campus. Students are responsible for every aspect of the restaurant, including the front of house, kitchen and even the business side of managing the restaurant. Some of the highlights from the new menu include flatbreads, goat cheese fondue, lobster nachos, beet carpaccio, pan roasted duck breast, Lorain County farm-raised tilapia and more.
The concept highlights the idea of “sage,” the wisdom of teachers and the community’s past, and “seed,” the new beginnings for those in the LCCC culinary program. Seasoned chefs share their knowledge and skills as they lead students through their capstone project in the on-site commercial kitchen through food preparation and serving.
“We are eager for community members to gather at Northern Ohio’s culinary arts epicenter and to share meals made with product from local growers,” Schmith said.
Sage & Seed is open to the public from 5-7:30 p.m., every Tuesday and Wednesday through Wednesday, May 2 (except March 13 and 14 during spring break). For dinner reservations call (440) 366-7007. To learn more, visit www.lorainccc.edu/sageandseed.
The LCCC culinary arts program covers food-service management, purchasing, human resources, food and beverage management and more. Students can earn short-term certificates or associate degrees.
In addition to the current degree and certificate programs many other offerings are geared toward businesses, industry and entrepreneurs, as well as the general public looking for fun culinary experiences. Classes include those in wine tasting, sausage-making, holiday cookie baking and more.
For more information on the culinary arts at LCCC, visit www.lorainccc.edu/culinary.