MISSOULA – Katie Barnes, a culinary arts student at Missoula College University of Montana, will compete for national recognition at the American Culinary Federation’s Student Chef of the Year competition in February.
The competition, which takes place in Joliet, Illinois, is a culinary cook-off where Barnes will prepare a dish alongside 10 other semifinalists from colleges across the nation.
“Winning Student Chef of the Year is the largest achievement you can get as a student competitor,” Barnes said.
Competitors range in age from 18 to 25 and will choose to make an entrée or dessert dish, using competition-specified ingredients. Barnes plans to serve up a dessert for the judges and is required to use macadamia nuts, pineapple and banana.
Barnes and her coach, Missoula College chef instructor Thomas Campbell, have spent much of winter break preparing for the February competition.
Barnes credits MC chef instructor Aimee Elliott as the motivation to enter culinary competitions. As a graduate of the college’s Culinary Arts program herself, Elliott has mentored and motivated Barnes to do her best.
“She doesn’t hesitate to begin practice at 5 a.m. and give up her weekends and holiday breaks to learn the most she can as a student culinarian,” Elliott said.
She said the competition will give Barnes the experience she deserves to escalate an already promising career in culinary arts.
Last May, Barnes won a gold medal at another ACF and Washington State Chefs Association culinary competition in Bellingham. More details from that competition are online at https://news.umt.edu/2016/05/052416chef.php.
“Bellingham really sealed the deal for me in terms of competing,” Barnes said. “We practiced every day for that competition. Some days we would be in the kitchen from 4:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. But all of the stress and preparation you do up until competitions is worth it when you finish your dish.”
Barnes said ultimately she wants to learn as much as she can from competing.
“I think competing can make you a better cook and teach you to handle those stressful situations in the kitchen,” she said. “It’s a lot of work but very rewarding.”
MC is supporting Barnes’ participation in the competition. To support scholarships for culinary arts students or the Culinary Arts program, call Drew Cable, Missoula College development director, at 406-243-2585 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.