The United States has often been described as a “melting pot” of cultures. This description is certainly applicable, considering that in a city like Chicago it is common to encounter people from many different countries and cultures, but is desperately inadequate when it comes to describing the rich flavors of cuisine throughout the U.S. In fact, the topic of American cuisine is one that is simply too large to combine into one class (or “melting pot,” if you will). Instead, in the Culinary Arts program at Kendall College we incorporate education on the distinct history, ingredients and dishes that represent each distinct U.S. region into every class across our curriculum. This year, American regional cuisine was even selected as the theme for the Kendall Cup.
The Kendall Cup is an annual school-sponsored, team-based competition in which students flex their skills in three core areas: technique, flavor and presentation. Pairing a culinary student with a student enrolled in the Baking and Pastry program, the competition requires that each team of two, first, research the food from a U.S. region of their choice and, second, invent or re-invent dishes that embody the culinary personality of that region.
Because competition is a key way that culinary professionals can build skill and understanding—as described by Chef Altieri here—each team competes under the watchful eyes of a kitchen judge and a tasting judge as they prepare, plate and present for tasting three entrees and three desserts. Teams are scored on a point system in which 200 points represents a perfect score. As a topic that is frequently misunderstood by both American and international students, the American regional theme provided a unique opportunity for students to not only demonstrate expert culinary skills, but also a sincere understanding of the special and significant nuances of American regional cuisine.
Congratulations to Julietta Wright and Giovanna Cirilo for earning the top score in this year’s Kendall Cup!
“I have always loved to compete and I learned a lot from the Kendall Cup. This was my first time participating in a timed competition and I know that even though I was on the winning team, there is still so much to learn and this was a great opportunity to practice. The best moment was after I platted my dish, I noticed that all of my extra arancinis had been eaten—when I saw that, I knew I had done a good job.”
—Giovanna Cirilo, winner of the 2015 Kendall Cup, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts and is from São Paulo, Brazil.
“Participating in the Kendall Cup was exciting because it gave us the opportunity to design our own dessert with the theme in mind. We chose pecan pie and I loved finding a way to represent and reinterpret all the things that people love about the ingredients into a new dessert. I learned a lot, but mostly to take deep breaths and stay focused. I will never forget how my teammate made me laugh to calm me down when she noticed that my hands were shaking like crazy during plating!”
—Julietta Wright, winner of the 2015 Kendall Cup, is pursuing an associate degree in baking and pastry and is from Crown Point, Indiana
Chef Wook Kang, CEC, CFBE, MCFE, ACE, is an assistant professor and culinary instructor at Kendall College.