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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Visit Baltimore Hosts 2nd Annual Baltimore CTE Food, Beverage, & Baking Competition

In a continued effort to expose Baltimore City youth to a wide range of professional opportunities in the hospitality industry, Visit Baltimore held the second annual Baltimore CTE Food, Beverage, & Baking Competition in downtown Baltimore on May 10, 2023.

This year’s event was an expanded and upgraded version of the inaugural competition held in 2022 that attracted more students and featured more activities. 

The 2023 competition featured five schools — Carver Vo-Tech, Mergentahler Vo-Tech, Edmonson-Westside, National Academy Foundation and Forest Park — and roughly 160 students. 

The winning school Carver Vocational Technical High School students (l-r) Nelcia Lewis; Chef Reginald Trogdon; Shanya Hudson; Paige Forbes; Dasia Richardson; Chef William Cooper; and Justin Robinson. Photo Credit: Mollye Miller Photography

Those five aforementioned schools have career and technical education (CTE) programs focusing on culinary arts and hospitality. Carver and Forest Park competed in the food, beverage and baking competition. 

Edmondson’s culinary team was originally slated to compete in the cooking showdown but had to withdraw last-minute due to scheduling conflicts with senior final exams.

For the second year in a row, Carver won the food, beverage and baking competition. The school’s culinary team, composed of five students and two instructors, won by only a slim margin over Forest Park.

Nelcia Lewis, a junior at Carver who participated on the school’s culinary team, said the cooking competition was a nerve-wracking experience, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

“I’m just glad to represent my school,” said Lewis, who aspires to open her own bakery one day. “It feels good to keep the [winning tradition] going.” 

Carver’s competition-winning dish was a French onion soup finished with homemade croutons and melted Swiss cheese along with a caesar salad as an appetizer, Tuscan chicken with a Lemon Beurre Blanc as the entree and a classic fruit tart as a dessert.

The repeat champs were led by Carver culinary instructors William Cooper and Reginald Trogdon.

“At this level, while they’re so young, the sky’s the limit for them. If they stick with it and put their blood, sweat and tears in it, they can do whatever they want because they have the talent,” Cooper said, adding that the team had limited preparation time. 

“The overall experience for me is always great. The students have really made me proud based on what they completed in such short time.”

Students prepare dishes in Hyatt Regency Baltimore’s commercial kitchen.  Photo Credit: Ian Harpool & Curtis Wilson

Mia Blom, the senior director of government and community affairs with Visit Baltimore, was pivotal in the facilitation of the four-hour event. Congruent to last year, she was one of the primary event organizers. Blom worked closely with the City Schools’ CTE programs, event sponsors, hospitality industry leaders and partners to make the program a success.

“I think it was so great,” Blom said, reflecting on the event’s turnout.

“What I hope is that [school CTE programs] want to partner with us in the future. And those in the hospitality industry – to give additional experiential opportunities to students. I saw some numbers being exchanged between some of the chefs and classroom chefs, I saw people excited to be able to come out again, people being invited, people applying for jobs… I hope to do more of that work.”

Held between the Baltimore Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency on Light Street, the function saw some slight changes from last year, including more venues included in site tours and new judges. Event participants also took part in an etiquette lunch coordinated by the Sodexo Live! culinary team.

The competition and lineup of events, which was referred to as the “run of show” on the program, featured “more people and more activity so that they could see a larger cross-section of the industry,” Blom confirmed.

Students also attended an industry panel discussion, networking session, participated in a mini-career fair with local hospitality industry partners and went on coordinated site tours in Hyatt Regency Baltimore, Visitor Center, Baltimore Convention Center and watermark boats. 

Panelists, some of whom spoke at last year’s gathering, offered valuable insight and advice for students who were considering careers in the hospitality industry. This year’s panelists were Tracey Pool, general manager of Hyatt Regency; Vonnya Pettigrew, CEO of Root Branch Media Group; Charlyn Nater-Severino, interim director of Baltimore Main Streets; and Juan Webster, an executive at Sagamore Pendry Hotel.

The event was held during National Travel and Tourism Week, which ran from May 7-13, 2023.

The competition’s five judges have an abundance of experience, knowledge and expertise in the culinary industry. They were as follows:

  • David and Tonya Thomas of the H3irloom Food Group
  • Catina Smith, founder of “Just Call Me Chef”
  • Scott Bacon, executive chef at The Ivy Hotel & Magdalena
  • Durian Neal, executive chef of the Loving Spoon Collective

 The cooking teams were scored based on a set of criteria, including organization (sanitation/work habits, utilization of ingredients and use of allotted time); cooking skills and culinary techniques (creativity, skills, craftsmanship; serving, portion size); and taste (flavor and texture; ingredient compatibility, nutritional balance; and serving method and presentation).

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