These are the Best Student Culinary Teams in the U.S.

The most talented student culinary competitors in the nation will face off in the American Culinary Federation‘s 2017 Student Team National Championship sponsored by Vitamix at Cook. Craft. Create. ACF National Convention & Show, July 9-13, Orlando, Florida.

The competitions between five student teams from across the U.S. will take place live on the trade show floor on Tuesday, July 11, and Wednesday, July 12.

But this year’s Student Team National Championship competition has a twist.

ACF’s Culinary Competition Committee changed the youth competition to include an edible cold food buffet platter to challenge youth teams already performing with a high level of perfection in the hot-food competition. This style of competition was first encountered at the 2016 “culinary Olympics,” held every four years in Erfurt, Germany. For the first time in the history of the “culinary Olympics,” youth teams were required to produce an edible buffet instead of a cold-food presentation to reduce food waste. ACF Culinary Youth Team USA placed seventh in the world and earned a silver medal in the edible buffet.


“As the largest culinary organization in the U.S., producing non-edible foods is not what we’re about,” said Chef Reimund Pitz, CEC, CCE, AAC, Chairman of the ACF Culinary Competitions Committee and ACF Culinary Team USA 2020 coach. “This is a perfect opportunity to not only comply to international standards but remain in the forefront as it relates to highly creative, edible food.”

The youth teams will compete in a two-part competition: the edible cold food buffet platter and the signature four-course menu. In the edible cold food competition, teams will prepare a buffet platter for 12. The market basket of ingredients will include rabbit, peas, corn, red lentils and habanero chilies.

Teams will then transition to prepare a signature four-course menu for four people in two hours and 10 minutes. The menu must include a seafood starter course, salad course, main course and dessert course.

Teams will be evaluated by a panel of distinguished chefs who will serve as both kitchen and tasting judges. Students will be judged on organization, skill, overall work habits and doneness of the dishes and flavor.

“Our thanks goes out to the entire ACF Board of Directors and ACF President Tom Macrina, CEC, CCA, AAC, for supporting us in this tremendous change as move forward,” said Chef Pitz.

These five teams rose to the top during their respective regional culinary salons and have spent countless hours preparing for competition, in addition to balancing the obligations of school, family life and work. Here’s a look at the teams who are competing.

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Central Region — Chefs de Cuisine Association of St. Louis Inc.

Chefs de Cuisine Association of St. Louis Inc

Pictured left to right: Brian Bernstein (coach), Sean Pham, Nick Norton, Nick Wenz, Tim Polacek, Derek Kaliszewski, CC, and Scott Scheible (coach).

Getting to compete for the Student Team National Championship is an absolute honor! When our team started this endeavor back in August, our motto was cook good food and have fun doing it. We were not sure at that time we would find ourselves in this humbling position. Not being affiliated with a school and representing our chapter is what motivates us. We continue to learn immensely, while we continue on this most amazing journey. We look forward to Orlando. Of course, we would like to win, but at the end of the day, it is about the friends that we have made and the knowledge we gain! — Scott Scheible, coach




See more pictures from the Central Region Culinary Salon. Download your favorites and share them on social media with the tag #ACFChefs.

Northeast — State University of New York at Delhi, Delhi, New York

ACF Chefs and Cooks of the Catskill Mountains

ACF Chefs and Cooks of the Catskill Mountains

Pictured left to right: Peter Blayne, Victor Sommo, CEC (coach), Arthur Grady, Carly Yezzo, Alex Johnson, Matthew Julius and Brianne Slocum (coach).

Winning the Northeast regional competition is a great honor and is a result of the hard work put forward by the team members and all of the students and faculty that support them. I believe that the ACF student team competition is one of the greatest learning tools for young culinarians. Words can’t express how great it is to witness these students hone their culinary and life skills in preparing for this competition. I am so proud of our team and we all look forward to preparing to compete at the national championship in Orlando! — Victor Sommo, CEC, coach




See more pictures from the Northeast Region Culinary Salon held at The Culinary Institute of New York at Monroe College, New Rochelle, New York, and the ChefConnect: New York regional conference. Download your favorites and share them on social media with the tag #ACFChefs.

Southeast — Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College

ACF North Carolina Chapter

ACF North Carolina Chapter.jpg

Pictured left to right: Emma Wieber, Emily Welch, Habiba Smallen, Jessica Olin and Nina Patterson. Coaches (not pictured): Chris Bugher, CEC, and Bronwen McCormick.

I am so proud of my team for winning the Southeast regional competition. They have worked countless hours outside of their already busy schedule to make sure they were prepared. We are extremely excited to be one of the first schools to take part in the new edible cold platter portion of the national competition. This is a great skill that they would not have had a chance to really dive into otherwise. — Chris Bugher, CEC, coach




See more pictures from the Southeast Region Culinary Salon. Download your favorites and share them on social media with the tag #ACFChefs.

Western — Kapi’olani Community College

ACF Honolulu Chapter

ACF Honolulu Chapter

Pictured left to right: Richard Lee, Jeremy David, Sean Uyehara, Christian Rae Wong, Kimberly Lim and Qihao Tam. Coaches (not pictured): Jason Peel and David Brown.

Competition is always a big deal for our school. for me, it’s not just the thrill of competing and the hope of winning, it’s the skills and confidence the students acquire throughout the journey; and also the relationships that they make with their fellow team members. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime and an experience to cherish. — Jason Peel, coach




See more pictures from the Western Region Culinary Salon. Download your favorites and share them on social media with the tag #ACFChefs.

U.S. Military — Team Hawaii Advanced Culinary Arts Training NCOIC

Military Student Team

Military Hawaii Team

Pictured left to right: SPC Anne Nicole Yapcengco, SPC Ashanti Brown, SPC Patricia Abrina, SPC Aaron Delosreyes and PFC Onyu Lai. Coach (not pictured): SFC Jose Alves, CEC

Competing at a national level and representing all branches of the military service is an honor and also a great deal of pressure. We have so many moving pieces when it comes to preparing for this event. Not only are we chefs, but we are soldiers first and have our military obligations aside from training for a national competition of this magnitude. We feel confident that our student chefs have been given the tools to prepare for this event. It will be challenging, but more so rewarding due to the skills and knowledge they will take away from this. Win or lose, the only source of knowledge is experience. — SFC Jose Alves, CEC, coach




To see the competition action, you can register for the full convention or get a trade show day pass.  View the ACF Flickr page for regional culinary salon photos and the highlights Website skyscraper ACF Cook. Craft. Create.from ChefConnect: Chicago and ChefConnect: NYC regional conferences. Download your favorite pictures and share them on social media by tagging #ACFChefs.

Follow the American Culinary Federation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get live updates of the national competitions, awards ceremonies and President’s Grand Ball Gala.

Want to be part of something great? Become a member! Visit our website to see what ACF is about and how we can help you excel in your career. ACF offers resources that include a list of ACF-accredited institutions to help you find the best culinary school, industry certifications that will set your resume apart from the rest and networking events to keep you ahead of the culinary curve.

Call us at (904) 824-4468 to speak with someone to learn more about the value of membership today.


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