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Sunday, May 22, 2022

Visit Baltimore partner with City Schools for cooking competition; Carver Vo-Tech culinary team named winners

Every year, Visit Baltimore highly anticipates the arrival of National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW), a time when the city’s official sales and marketing organization celebrates the hospitality industry’s role in restoring Baltimore’s economy and improving the welfare of local residents and visitors.

Perhaps the highlight of this year’s NTTW, which ran from May 1-7 , was a cooking competition hosted by the Hyatt Regency Hotel at the Inner Harbor. 

The “Baltimore CTE Food, Beverage & Baking Competition” featured an array of delectable culinary selections from local high school students and was facilitated thanks to a partnership between Baltimore City Public Schools and Visit Baltimore.

Endeavoring to spotlight hospitality industry workforce development, Visit Baltimore partnered with City Schools for the four-hour event that took place Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Several dozen students were joined by culinary instructors and administrators from five high schools: Edmondson-Westside, Mervo, Forest Park, Carver Vo-Tech and National Academy Foundation. 

The students who didn’t participate in the culinary competition had the opportunity to engage in a brief job fair, where they were given resources and information for employment opportunities in the hospitality field. 

“This partnership is very important where we give our students an opportunity to engage with industry partners within the hospitality industry allowing our students to put theory into practice, they’re able to showcase their skills and what they’re learning, and to have something to be proud of,” said Shamara Bownes, City Schools’ work-based learning specialist who is also responsible for the partnership between the school system and Visit Baltimore.

“I hope being a part of this opportunity, our students see Baltimore City is a beautiful place and there’s some industry partners here that are eager and ready for them to enter the workforce, and they know they’re valuable.”

Also in attendance were a number of local hospitality industry leaders and restaurateurs – including Terra Cafe owner Terence Dickson and Tiny Brick Oven owner Will Fagg – along with corporate executives from Hyatt Regency, Lord Baltimore Hotel and Hotel Revival. 

Following the welcome, culinary teams left for the kitchen to start cooking and preparing their dishes. Shanae Fant, City Schools’ CTE manager, was the mistress of ceremony. She energized the students, introduced event speakers and guests and moderated a panel discussion featuring Hyatt Regency general manager Tracey Pool, Hyatt Hotels assistant director of human resources Sherri Howard and Lord Baltimore Hotel executive chef Elizabeth Dinice.

Event speakers encouraged students, most of whom are aspiring culinary or hospitality industry leaders, to follow their ambitions and be entrepreneurial-minded, while panelists explained what makes the hospitality field unique, the credentials required to advance in the industry and the salary ranges for their respective professions.

“I think that any opportunity we have to get our youth involved in hospitality – I would do anything to do that,” said Pool, one of only two Black females in North America in a general manager capacity at a Hyatt-branded hotel.

“Just to see the excitement in their eyes and get them involved in something they may have never even considered before… this is a fantastic industry for them to join.”

Kelli Singleton, director of housekeeping at Hotel Revival, Baltimore Main Streets director Sean Stinnett and Balitmore Main Streets program coordinator Charlyn Nater-Severino also shared useful advice for students. After those remarks, Hyatt Regency’s staff led students on a tour of the hotel, followed by a hospitality and tourism mini career fair.

The event concluded with the announcement of the winning team for the culinary competition. The winners were awarded embroidered chef coats, a trophy and a free lunch at Fogo De Chao. After consulting with judges (‘taste testers’), Baltimore Convention Center executive chef Gregory Pittman announced the winners, which was Carver Vo-Tech.

The winning team, composed of six students and two instructors from Carver’s culinary arts department, cooked a Tuscan sous vide chicken with roasted thyme potatoes, topped with asparagus and Old Bay seasoning as the competition-winning dish.

“This experience was immensely successful and liberating,” said Reggie Trogdon, Carver Vo-Tech’s culinary arts program instructor along with William Cooper.

“With the leadership they (Carver students) displayed today, they can go anywhere… I can see these kids doing whatever they put their minds to, becuase with just two days of practice, they pulled this off almost without a hitch.”

The students from the competition’s winning team, all of whom are juniors, are as follows: Xavier Mack, Nicholas Brown, Jaden Robinson-El, Keaira Brown, Armani Danile-Saboor, Damiyah Collins.

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