Culinary Institute students take home the gold at state championships

Port Huron was well-represented in the culinary arts in this year’s SKILLS USA Post Secondary Michigan State Championship.

Two students from the Culinary Institute of Michigan-Port Huron took home gold medals in their respective categories, earning the rights to represent the state of Michigan in the Post Secondary National Championships in Louisville this June. Students from the Culinary Insitute of Michigan performed well during the SKILLS USA championship.

The SKILLS USA competition isn’t one that judges students on what off-the-wall recipes they can come up with. Rather it judges students on their command of fundamental, practical, and real-world skills.

"With the commercial baking category, for example, students have to complete a cake exactly as they’re told, down to the number of roses on there. It’s to show that they can complete an order as it’s given," says Chef Thomas Recinella, dean of Culinary at Culinary Institute of Michigan, a division of Baker College.

"The contest is very focused on employable skills. It’s an interesting and good way to do that."

Devon Bokeno is State Champion in Commercial Baking and Joe Herrera is State Champion in Culinary Arts. Also placing was Claire Morawski with a Silver Medal in Culinary Arts, Sloane Verhagen with a Silver Medal in Restaurant Service, and Sean Murphy with A Bronze Medal in Commercial Baking.

Contest champions or not, Recinella makes it clear that the Culinary Institute of Michigan’s main focus is putting its students on successful career paths.

"With the contests, we’re able to showcase what we do in the lab every day. The students do well because they’re not stuck sitting in a lecture hall. There is the theory side but it’s mostly hands-on learning," Recinella says.

"The contests don’t define our program. It’s the other way around. It’s our lab work that leads to our success."

Visit the student-run Courses Restaurant in the Culinary Institute of Michigan building in downtown Port Huron to get a taste of what the students can do.

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