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Students Compete For Trip To Europe

Students in Ivy Tech’s hospitality administration program competed Friday for a trip to Europe. In this week’s segment of NorthEATS Indiana, WBOI’s Lisa Ryan went behind the scenes of a culinary competition, where emotions were high as the students baked and cooked for hours straight.

  Ever since Julie Lowry heard about the school’s culinary competition, she knew she wanted to win the trip to Europe.

“It’s just, I’ve never been abroad,” she said.

Lowry was one of 18 students who competed last Friday, and eight were selected as winners based on their competition scores. The trip to Europe is food-based, and students will get to see how cheese is made, meat is cured and how grapes are turned into wine.

There were three categories in the competition: culinary, baking and event management.

Credit Lisa Ryan, WBOI News
Baking students were judged in four categories: fruit dessert, chocolate dessert, bread and cake decorating.

Eleven students competed in the baking category. They had four and a half hours to make bread, fruit and chocolate desserts and decorate a cake. The students came with their menus already prepared. Teresa Thurston was one of the competitors, and she says she practiced making one of her dishes five times.

“Because when I tasted it the first time I didn’t like the way it tasted, and my family was like that’s not good, then I had to make it my own and change some things up and after I did that, I wanted to do a couple more run throughs to make sure it turned out the way that I wanted it after I changed it,” Thurston said.

Her preparation paid off because now she gets to go to Europe.

Credit Lisa Ryan, WBOI News
A culinary student prepares his dishes.

Six students competed in the culinary category. The day of the competition, they were each given three mystery ingredients to include in their three-course meal. For example, one student had to use lamb shank, sea bass, and green beans. They had 30 minutes to develop a menu with an appetizer, entree and dessert, and three and a half hours to prepare the food and plate it.

The students were judged based on how their food tasted and how it looked. One person had points deducted because her portion size was too big for the plate.

“This one, you know, no disrespect, I teach them not to put food on the edge of their plate, and then I see this and I’m going, ‘No, no I told you not to do that!’” said Cheryl Hitzemann, a baking and pastry instructor and judge for the baking category of the competition.

Lisa Ryan, WBOI News
Baking students agree with judge Cheryl Hitzemann that bread is one of the most difficult components of the competition.

Hitzemann says one of the biggest challenges is timing. The bread is probably one of the hardest aspects for the baking students, she says, because it takes the most time.

“There’s been dough, there’s been bread, beautiful on the outside, and you cut it--we always cut it and taste it--and it’s just raw, I mean dough on the inside,” Hitzemann said. “Beautiful on the outside, and you’re going, oh gosh, I still gotta taste it!”

Jeff Albertson was one of the culinary judges and is an assistant professor in the hospitality program. He watches over the students in the kitchen, paying attention to their cooking technique. Kitchen judges graded competitors based on food safety and cleanliness.

“Mainly focusing on how long food is out, how long is food out, and how is their sanitation practices?” Albertson said.

The students aren’t only competing for the trip to Europe. The rules are part of the American Culinary Federation accreditation process, and students have to receive a bronze or higher in order to graduate. If they score bronze or higher, they also receive a $500 scholarship. This year, Sarah Hughes, the program director, says it’s the first year everyone who competed will receive a scholarship.

Some choose not to compete and instead complete the same curriculum on a different day. Hughes says some students just don’t want the pressure of competing for the trip.

“Some people don’t want to travel, or they know that they can’t because of work or kids or whatever, so they’ll opt to not compete,” Hughes said. “I had to push a few people.”

The competitors in this year’s event were varied in their age and backgrounds. Julie Lowry is not only a student, she’s a mom and grandmother as well. Lowry went to culinary school after divorcing her husband and losing her job and her house in the process.

“I found myself jobless, homeless and manless all in one weekend, and that’s how it all started,” she said.

She thinks her experience has set a positive example for her grandchildren because they see her working hard to reach her goals.

“I remember my granddaughter she was like, ‘I didn’t know that old people could go to college,” Lowry said.

This isn’t the first time Lowry has competed. Last year, she says she panicked and didn’t do well.

“It was so funny, the very first thing that my granddaughter she said was, ‘Did you mess up Grandma?’”

Her family, including her children and grandchildren, were at the awards ceremony to support her and cheer her on when she won.

“Oh my gosh. I did it. I get to go to France. I just can’t even imagine,” Lowry said. “That has been my goal since I started here, and I did it.”

The students will travel to France in May to hone their cooking skills. And Lowry, who has waited 55 years to travel abroad, plans to take full advantage of the opportunity.

Credit Lisa Ryan, WBOI News
From left to right: Rachel Bonkoski (culinary), Joanne Holscher (baking), Teresa Thurston (baking), DeEdra Robinson (culinary), Brenda Zemaitis (event management), Julie Lowry (culinary), Jeanette Win (baking), Tasha Fullington (baking)

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