Hospitality students take 1st place in Culinary Challenge

  • Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    IFSEA 2014PRINCESS ANNE, MD - (April 15, 2014) - "Unbelievable," was the unanimous response from members of a winning team of hospitality students when asked how they felt when they learned they would take home first place honors for the second year in a row. 

     The quartet of students from the school's student chapter of the International Food Service Executives Association competed in a culinary challenge as part of the parent organization's annual conference in Orlando April 9-13.

    Morrisville (N.Y.) State, which came in second in last year's competition, again posed the stiffest competition. 

    "They had stepped up their game tremendously with a whole new team," said Jade Overton, a senior from Baltimore, Md., UMES' captain and a return competitor.  Jamel Smith, a senior from Philadelphia, Pa., alternate on the team and also returning to the challenge, added that this year's event was tougher overall because there were more teams entered in the competition.

     UMES bested eight teams including culinary giant Johnson & Wales with its award-winning menu; a strawberry steak salad appetizer, seared salmon topped with pineapple salsa and mango fried rice entrée, and a Mexi-crème brulée dessert.

    What gave the team the edge? 

    "We kept it simple, but with a lot of flavor," Smith said.

    With a pantry of over 100 items to choose from, some of the teams tried to "get a little crazy" and attempted too much, Overton said.  The UMES team, she said, simulated what the challenge would be like back in the university's kitchen practicing with about 30 items-a fraction of what would be at their disposal-and a mystery ingredient, a requirement of the competition.  Team UMES also tried to use the same equipment in practice that would be  available in the competition, but was thrown a curve-ball this year when it was faced with using an induction cook top that members were unfamiliar with, but conquered nonetheless.

    Marlon Bouie, a senior from Baltimore, Md. and also a veteran competitor, said the group intimidated its peers and impressed the panel of eight judges, one from each category of requirements, with adhering strictly to the guidelines.  

    The biggest challenge?  "Anticipation of the announcement (of the winners) a day later," Bouie said.  "I knew we were going to do well, but didn't know if we were going to win."

    Chef Ralston Whittingham praised this year's leadership of Bouie, who served as production manager for the UMES Dinner Theatre and the HBCU Choral Festival dinner, and Overton, team captain, saying it was a well-balanced year.  "They have a mutual respect for each other's skills.  I wholeheartedly congratulate them."

    New to the event and rounding out the team were Alyssa Davis, a junior from New Jersey, and Kaila Cornelius, a junior from Edenton, N.C.     

    The team and their companions, a chaperone and 18 peers, were also treated to a special welcome dinner-a highlight according to the students-arranged by Rilous Carter, vice president of Catering, Convention Services and Park Event Operations at Walt Disney World Resorts, and member of UMES' Hospitality and Tourism Management Department's industry advisory board.&x