JJC Culinary Students Qualify to National Competition

Six Joliet Junior College culinary arts students will represent JJC in New Orleans after competing at the American Culinary Federation (ACF) national qualifier in Overland Park, Kansas in March. 

JJC’s student team of Noah Hook (captain), Anthony Bozue, Taylor Washington, Alexis Segura and Rick Nava finished second overall to qualify for next month’s national championship. First-year student Olivia Valentino serves as the team’s alternate and will be competing in New Orleans. 

Individual competitor Caitlyn Drzyzga placed third at the qualifier in the ACF Student Chef of the Year competition and also advanced to nationals. 

“It takes so much hard work, sacrifice and dedication to produce teams and students that can compete at a high level,” said Chef Paul Bringas, JJC culinary professor and competition coach. “The fact that the team and Caitlyn both qualified for nationals is a testament to their hard work.” 

Practicing and training for these competitions requires additional time in the kitchen outside of class and even the traditional school year. Thanks to Chef Bringas, assistant coach Alexis Ramos and the support of department chairperson Chef Michael McGreal and the entire culinary department, JJC’s competitors practice at City Center a few times a week into the summer semester to prepare for nationals. 

The student team competed against 13 of the top culinary schools in the United States at the qualifier. The timed competition included preparing a 4-course menu with multiple servings of each. Factors that determine scores include making the cooking and plating windows, presentation, execution, flavor, sanitation, organization and teamwork. 

Drzyzga’s individual competition was nearly identical to the team’s. However, in order to be selected to compete at a qualifier, the Student Chef of the Year competition required her to submit a resume, letter and photographs of dishes she had previously prepared.  

In July, both Drzyzga and the JJC culinary student team will compete for national titles in New Orleans at the ACF National Convention. The winners of both the Student Chef of the Year and Student Team of the Year competitions will be named at the ACF President's Gala on Wednesday, July 19. 

Joliet Junior College has won both national titles in 2010 and 2014. 

“Winning both of these competitions twice is almost unheard of,” said Chef McGreal. “We are locked and loaded to win both titles a third time this July!”

For media inquiries, please contact Media and Communications Manager, Katherine Smith at katherine.smith@jjc.edu or 815-280-2844.