Baker College brings home national culinary awards

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Courtesy Baker College

Several students and faculty members at Baker College’s Culinary Institute of Michigan earned recognition from the American Culinary Federation at its 2022 National Convention in Las Vegas.  

Several Culinary Institute of Michigan (CIM) students, from campuses in Muskegon and Port Huron, competed for American Culinary Federation (ACF) Student Chef of the Year and Student Pastry Chef of the Year honors. At ACF-sanctioned competitions, student chefs compete for their own individual honors based on a set scoring system, not head-to-head against other chefs. 

This year, the following Baker College students were awarded: 

  • Samantha Hecht of CIM Port Huron: Bronze medal; ACF Central Region Champion, First runner-up for National Student Pastry Chef of the Year
  • Danielle Little of CIM Port Huron: Bronze medal, third place overall
  • Hannah Denys of CIM Muskegon: Bronze medal
  • Maya Vanbuskirk of CIM Port Huron: Bronze medal

For ACF National Student Chef of the Year, Baker College students were awarded as follows:

  • Emily Rozema of CIM Port Huron: Silver medal; fourth place overall
  • Steven Stempnik of CIM Port Huron: Bronze medal
  • Gage Hess of CIM Muskegon: Bronze medal 

“Our student competitors worked so hard to represent the CIM, the state of Michigan and the ACF Central Region,” said Chef Tom Recinella, Baker College’s dean of culinary. “They put their all into it, and we couldn’t be prouder of them. Without a doubt, they put forth their best efforts and performed amazingly for the judges.”

In addition, CIM Muskegon instructor Chef Amanda Miller, received the ACF Presidential Medallion. According to the ACF, the Presidential Medallion is considered the highest honor given by the president of the American Culinary Federation. The medallion is presented in recognition of outstanding representation of the ACF fundamental principles, including superior strength of character and continued contributions to ACF and/or the culinary industry as a whole.

Miller’s colleague, Chef Chris Sowa, a CIM Port Huron campus instructor, was honored with an induction into the American Academy of Chefs (AAC). The honor society of ACF, the AAC represents the highest standards of professionalism in the organization, society and industry. 

“We are so proud of Chef Miller and Chef Sowa. … The respective honors bestowed on them by the ACF and the academy are consistent with their accomplishments as chefs and educators, and their commitment to furthering the industry and mentoring young chefs, pastry chefs and managers,” Recinella said. “To be awarded a Presidential Medallion is an honor not given to many people, and to be inducted into the American Academy of Chefs is a distinct honor that is reflective of adherence to the very highest standards of being a chef.”

CIM offers associate degree programs in culinary arts, baking, pastry, and food and beverage management areas. CIM students learn from industry professionals in hands-on training environments. Student chefs also gain real-world experience working at courses and a teaching restaurant open to the public and located on each CIM campus.

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