With their win early this spring at the Central Region’s Knowledge Bowl competition, Kendall College’s team increased their chances that they will successfully complete what no team from our culinary program has done since 2011: take home the Baron H. Galand Knowledge Bowl National Title. The team of six students, led by Coach and program Dean, Chef Dina Altieri, keep a tight ship, operating like a well-oiled culinary knowledge machine ready to capitalize on their months and months of preparation.
“Last year’s loss was really hard on all of us,” Alex Gabrielson, team captain and a third-year culinary arts student, recounted. He was referring to their devastating loss at the 2014 Knowledge Bowl nationals last July, where the team lost after having swept the regional competition, just as they did this year. Gabrielson said that just days after that loss, he was in Chef Altieri’s office, asking her about when and how they could start preparations for the next year’s competition.
That kind of drive and desire to win this title can be found in other people on the team, like Mike Lanzerotte, also a returning member and a key leader. Lanzerotte actually wasn’t planning on competing this year; he had been pegged as a candidate for captain in two years, and was going to wait to use his last year of eligibility (students can only compete for two years on Knowledge Bowl teams) in 2016, when he could serve as captain after Gabrielson. But after a conversation with his classmate, Lanzerotte re-thought this.
“We talked and decided that this year  was our best chance to win this,” Gabrielson said. “So he stayed.” He has been a key team member so far, especially when it comes to the specifics of some of the key texts students study for the event, ones that he is now two years into analyzing.
So what exactly does a Knowledge Bowl competition look like, you might ask. Both team members described it as a “Jeopardy-style” game where they are tested on their knowledge of culinary, baking, nutrition and general kitchen expertise. Both also said it can be quite intense, with team members hovering over buzzers, often buzzing before the next question is even fully asked.
And this team, more than just a worthy extracurricular activity on top of a world-class culinary arts education, isn’t just about buzzing in or traveling to competitions. Both Lanzerotte and Gabrielson said that they have seen the facts and concepts they study for the Knowledge Bowl translate in important ways as they work in kitchens.
“A few years ago, if someone in a kitchen asked me to go get a product like radicchio (a red-leafed vegetable with a bitter, spicy taste), I would have had no idea what it even looked like,” Gabrielson said. “But now there are things I’ve learned and had exposure to that some people may have never seen before.” Then factor in all the experience team members gain in managing varying personalities in high-pressure situations, and it starts to sound eerily similar to being in a bustling kitchen on a Saturday night.
So far, the months of preparation the team has completed have paid off, and both Gabrielson and Lanzerotte expressed extreme excitement for Knowledge Bowl Nationals in early August, which will take place in Orlando. They are amping up their training strategies and looking to close the gap on their weaknesses, trying to stay measured, but also confident, when August comes.
“I hope we absolutely smoke everyone else,” Lanzerotte said. “I’m hoping we can bring it [the title] back to Kendall.”
Learn more about the team’s win here.
Kendall College’s 2015 Central Regional Baron H. Galand Culinary Knowledge Bowl team: (Back) Mike Lanzerotte, Alex Gabrielson (team captain), Alex Szabo, Mike Kubiesa, (Front) Nelia Salvi, Emily Mankus, Chef Dina Alteri
Written by Katie Landgrebe.