The Culinary Institute of New York at Monroe College Wins Top Team and Individual Titles at Prestigious ACF Northeast Regional Competition

March 01, 2016

Monroe College, a national leader in educating urban and international students, today announced that its Culinary Institute of New York competition team was named the Northeast Regional Champions in an American Culinary Federation (ACF) competition, and that sophomore Denise Aquayo was named the Northeast Regional Student Chef of the Year at the same event. It is the first time since 2008 that one college won both top titles for the Northeast.

Captained by junior Yudi Torres, Monroe's five-member team successfully competed against student teams from Columbus Culinary Institute, Johnson & Wales, Pierpont Community & Technical College, and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Boston, ultimately bringing home five gold medals and the title of Northeast Regional Champions. Monroe's other culinary team members are juniors Erika Hernandez, Dejanee Archbold, and Hipolito Torres, and freshman Nicholas Giambrone. The team will compete for the national title in Arizona next July.

In addition to the team win, sophomore culinary student Denise Aquayo earned an individual gold medal and was named the Northeast Regional Student Chef of the Year after competing head-to-head against a student from SUNY Delhi. Her winning menu featured a contemporary trio of free-range chicken inspired by the flavors of Mexico, featuring a roasted stuffed breast with chorizo stuffing and tomatillo sauce, braised chicken and pinto bean flauta sauced with avocado cream and a fingerling lime, and leg-steamed "adobado" with mole sauce and a picadillo of butternut squash over winter greens.

For the team competition, the ACF required students to demonstrate proficiency in two key areas during two phases of the competition. The first phase is a technical skills salon, where students must exhibit mastery of butchery, fish filleting, knife cuts or pastry cream preparation. The second phase is a 75-minute cooking competition, during which students must produce a four-course menu comprised of one classical course and a contemporary fish course, salad course, and dessert of their own signature concept.

The Monroe team prepared a four-course menu included a main dish of pan-seared farmed striped bass with shrimp and scallop dumplings in a shellfish broth, a shaved fennel and arugula salad, a classical chicken entrée called Poulet Sauté Saint-Lambert, and a coconut and milk chocolate mousse entremet featuring a pistachio cake with crunch topping, a passion fruit glaze with guava sauce and strawberry kiwi salad with fingerling lime "caviar."

"Given the talented teams in New York and then the northeast region, the incredible honor of winning both championships is testimony to the hard work and dedication of our team, and I couldn't be prouder of them," said Frank C. Costantino EdD CEC CCE AAC, Dean of Monroe College's School of Hospitality Management and the Culinary Arts. "I'm looking forward to seeing what the national competition brings in July. The team is excited to start training camp and begin on our 'one team, one goal' journey to give our very best effort at nationals while representing the Northeast region."

Since 2009, Monroe's culinary arts program has received more than 600 awards. In late 2015, its competition team was crowned the state champions for the second consecutive year at the ACF New York State Championship. The team has also twice won the coveted Marc Sarrazin trophy at the International Hotel, Motel and Restaurant Show in NYC. Its Culinary Institute of New York provides students valuable instruction and mentoring in a real-world culinary environment, with classes taught by a faculty of experienced industry professionals, many of whom are certified by the American Culinary Federation.