A-B Tech Students Win American Culinary Federation Southeast Regional Titles

College Takes Top Honors for Student Team, Student Chef, and Student Pastry Chef

Culinary students from A-B Tech Community College won best student team, student chef, and student pastry chef in the Southeast Region at the American Culinary Federation (ACF) national qualifying competition in Overland Park, Kansas last weekend.

A-B Tech’s student team will head to ACF National Finals in New Orleans in July, marking the college’s 14th appearance in the national team competition. ACF picked the top four scores from the competition to move on to the Nationals. There were regional awards, but winning regions did not result in an automatic invitation to nationals, as in previous years.

A-B Tech’s student “hot food” team is comprised of captain Jason Gray, Nickolas Abbott, Corrine Dowd, Abbey Franklin, and Ashley Neri. Roman Nourse won the Southeast Student Chef of the Year contest and Patricia (Paty) Santibanez won the Southeast Student Pastry Chef of the Year. The team’s coaches are Chef Instructors Chris Bugher and Stephen Hertz. Nourse also placed in the top four in the qualifying competition and will compete for National Student Chef of the Year in New Orleans. He also served as team captain for the A-B Tech team that competed in the national finals in 2022.

“It was a very tough competition; the level of the individual and schools competing were the best in the country,” Bugher said. “The team has worked so hard over the last few months and poured their literal blood, sweat, and tears to earn their way to the national competition in New Orleans this July.”

There also were 23 students competing for four individual spots as Student Chef of the Year, the largest number yet, Bugher said. “The judges crowded around Roman because he was so fun to watch in the kitchen. Paty also put out an amazing dish for student pastry chef of the year, winning the Southeast Regional Champion, but she was edged out overall, coming in just one position behind the cut-off. I am so proud of all of them – they kept the winning tradition alive in one of the most challenging competitions I have seen in years.”

Hertz said students on this year’s team “have been an inspiration not only in their determination and focus to their work and menu but also in their comradery and humility to their fellow competitors. They continually show up to win, but also to make friends and network with their opposition. It was great to see the joy in their eyes when they got called up for their medal. I don't think one of us had a dry eye when we heard them call out A-B Tech's name.”

The students and chef instructors continue to showcase the college’s Culinary Arts program, said Cathy Horton, chair of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management. “A-B Tech Culinary has long been known as a top culinary school in the country and these team members embody the passion, skill, and dedication to their craft that we are known for. I’m incredibly proud of all of them and look forward to taking NOLA by storm!”

The A-B Tech team’s winning menu included the following four courses:

  • Appetizer
    • Escoffier #1929 Filets de Sole a l’Andalouse
  • Modernized
    • Golden Beet Wrapped Butter Poached Sole, Roasted Red Pepper Mousseline, Rice Middlins Fried Tomato, Lemon Butter Sauce, Tarragon Caviar, Eggplant Encurtido
  • Salad
    • Petite Greens, Sweet Potato Tourné, Barley, Pickled Strawberry, Strawberry Goat Cheese, Sweet Potato Tuile, Roasted Seeds, Strawberry Vinaigrette
  • Entrée
    • Smoked Tea Cornish Hen Breast, Hot Honey Fried Leg, Farce Stuffed Red Potato, Lemon Asparagus, Chicken Herb Sauce, Filo Wrapped Potato Puree
  • Dessert
    • Coffee Mousse, Cherry Insert, Chocolate Sponge Cake, Hazelnut Chocolate Base, Hazelnut Tuile, Cherry Bourbon Sauce, Manhattan Cherry, Orange Peel Twist, Cara Orange Segment Brulé
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