Niagara College students cook up success at Saputo Junior Challenge for Ontario

Two Niagara College students proved they could take the heat in the kitchen, earning second and third place at a provincial culinary competition recently in Toronto.

First-year Culinary Management student Kevin Charanduk won silver, and second-year Culinary Management student Anthony Belluomini won bronze, at the Canadian Culinary Federation Saputo Junior Challenge for Ontario.

Dean of the Canadian Food and Wine Institute Craig Youdale applauded the students’ accomplishment and noted the significance of the experience.

“Competing is about showcasing the incredible passion and dedication our students and staff have to the culinary world,” said Youdale. “The students are able to have the opportunity to showcase their talents under pressure and really gain some important confidence in their future.”

Held at Humber College on March 18, the students had four hours and 30 minutes to prepare and serve a three-course menu for six people. Before the competition began, menus, work plans and recipes were submitted. Competitors were tasked with preparing a menu using chicken for each dish and specific cheese from sponsor Saputo for each course. Students were judged on cooking skills, as well as on food preparation, presentation, and taste.

Charanduk and Belluomini were selected to compete by chef professor Olaf Mertens and began preparing for the competition in February – everything from chicken butchery to final plating. In March, their dishes were finalized including their recipes, schedule plans, ingredient and equipment checklists. It was the first culinary competition for the two NC students and a meaningful one for them both.

“Getting to represent all the hardworking staff and students of the College pushed me to work hard every class and practice,” said Charanduk.

Charanduk, a resident of St.Catharines, noted how training for the competition has helped to grow his abilities and now he can work faster and cleaner.

“We were awarded a trophy for our finishes, but the experience itself and the opportunity to grow is reason enough to do the competition,” he said.

Belluomini, who moved from Meaford to Niagara-on-the-Lake to attend NC, said he was proud to have been selected to represent the College and put his skills to the test. He was grateful for his support he received from chefs and mentors at the CFWI as well as from colleagues, family and friends.

While it was a challenge to fit in his training with his schoolwork and his job at Two Sisters vineyard – Belluomini said he valued the experience.

“I feel as if the competition not only improved my skills, my organization, and my creativity, but it also developed my overall character, giving me more confidence in myself,” he said. “My passion and drive to become a chef is stronger than ever and I couldn’t be happier with the result.”

Currently celebrating its 50th year as a College of Applied Arts and Technology, NC is a leader in applied education and a key contributor to the economies of Niagara and Ontario. A regional college with global reach, NC offers more than 100 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs.