JJC Culinary Competition Team Takes Second at Nationals

The Joliet Junior College Culinary Competition Team finished its season among the top two teams in the nation.

Culinary Competition Team - Nationals 2019
Competition Team at nationals, from left: Lloyd Wright, Jacob Merz,
Liam O’Brien, Alexis Ramos, Zachary Zwei

Comprised of five JJC culinary arts students, the group narrowly missed placing first at the American Culinary Federation’s National Conference in Orlando, Florida in August. It concludes a yearlong effort that earned the team first place at state and first place at regionals, where they scored the highest of any regional competitor across the country. That finish earned a spot at nationals.

“I am pleased at how the team performed. We had a very productive season, which lasts nearly a year,” said Competition Team Coach Chef Paul Bringas. “The students practice after classes two to three times a week, and we practice the same schedule throughout the summer. The commitment is huge, both from the students and the coaches.”

JJC students Lloyd Wright, Jacob Merz, Liam O’Brien, Alexis Ramos, and Zachary Zweig competed at nationals against four other regional teams and one military team. They were scored based on kitchen environment, taste, flavor, plating, proper cooking methods and techniques.

Competition team food - Nationals 2019

“We received a second place silver medal at nationals with a score of 88.11. We lost by a very close margin of twelve one-hundredths of a point,” said Bringas. “Competition at this level is extreme,” said Bringas. “I am very proud of all that we accomplished with this team. The students were very dedicated and worked extremely hard. A truly great, passionate group of students to coach. We were so very fortunate to have had Certified Master Chef Tim Bucci also as a coach on our team, as well as Culinary Arts Department Chair Chef Mike McGreal and our entire department supporting us each step along the way.”

Bringas said he is looking forward to coaching the next team of students, beginning later this semester, which could return some of last year’s members or feature an entirely new group of students. 

“I am so proud of the hard work and commitment of each of the students on this year’s team, along with the unwavering dedication of their coaches Chef Bringas and Chef Bucci,” said Chef McGreal. “These students transformed into talented and professional culinarians over the course of the past year.  They serve as role models to other students and have positioned themselves for successful and rewarding careers.”

For media inquiries, contact Communications and Media Coordinator Scott Harvey at 815-280-2844 or sharvey@jjc.edu.