Hospitality management students shine at competitions

Harper College’s hospitality management students are racking up the accolades.

Spring in Paris cupcakeEarlier this month, Harper’s culinary team bested the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and SUNY Morrisville to win all three categories of the International Food Service Executives Association Conference’s Culinary Competition in Florida.

And just last week, Harper topped Elgin Community College at the fourth annual Community Colleges Cupcake Competition, put on by the Hoffman Estates Bon Appétit Community Food and Drink Festival.

A spring in Paris-inspired mocha and caramel-filled cupcake – topped with an amaretto ganache and chocolate Eiffel Tower – proved to be a winning recipe for partners Marissa Luisi and Char Vale, who will split the $1,000 first-place scholarship prize.

Student Joe McGovern completed Harper’s clean sweep with a second-place finish and its $500 prize. Chocolate ganache and shavings, cream cheese icing and raspberry coulis adorned his chocolate cupcake.

The contest, which required students to make about 400 cupcakes, has a twist: It’s sponsored by Splenda manufacturer Tate and Lyle, so the sugar substitute must make up at least half of the sweetener.

“The cupcakes were delicious and definitely award-winning,” Chef Pili Rios said. “They were a testament to the hours and hours spent baking, icing, decorating and assembling.”

In Orlando, Harper students showed their versatility by winning both the bistro trophy and the hotel challenge. Teams in the high-energy, fast-paced culinary competition had just 90 minutes to plan, prep, plate and present their multi-course meal to a panel of judges. Their entree had to incorporate plantains, the secret ingredient unveiled at the onset.

Harper students also won the hotel challenge by successfully inspecting a hotel room and managing hospitality scenarios presented in a case study. There was an education component as well, with a variety of classes on topics such as miliCulinary competition teamtary food service, farm to table and catering.

Instructor Beth O’Connell said budding chefs John Demma, Millard Jones, James Payne, Rafal Siwiecki and captain Stephanie Young capitalized on weeks of practice. Rafal also took first in the cake decorating contest.

Millard, a first-year student, was a rookie on the team. He came to Harper after retiring last year from the U.S. Navy. His desire to cook came largely from the smell of freshly baked rolls that wafted throughout his ship.

“The culinary competition definitely built my confidence,” Millard said. “I started out pretty timid, but I’ve come a really long way.”

Media contact:  Kim Pohl, Media Relations Manager, 847.925.6159

Last Updated: 3/10/23