SkillsUSA National Baking and Culinary Competition

Alfred State College faculty members John M. Santora, associate professor and chair, Culinary Arts Department, and Debra Burch, (ASC 1979) associate professor, Culinary Arts Department, and Alfred State College SkillsUSA adviser recently traveled to Kansas City, MO, to judge the SkillsUSA national baking and culinary competitions, respectively.

A 1975 graduate of Alfred State College, Santora attended Buffalo State College where he took courses in vocational education.  He joined the ASC faculty in 1979; he was named chair of the department in 2006. Prior to joining the ASC faculty, Santora worked as a sous chef at the Parkway-Ramada Hotel, and later at the Hilton Hotel, both in Niagara Falls.  He taught cooking courses through a CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) program at Niagara County Community College. Santora was awarded the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Creative Activities in 2005.

Burch, who earned an AOS degree from Alfred State College in culinary arts: baking, production and management, joined the faculty in 2000. Immediately prior to that she served as bakery assistant for the department. Before joining the ASC community, Burch worked at Moonwink’s Restaurant, Cuba; the Cuba-Rushford School; and the Hut Restaurant, Hinsdale.

This year, more than 5,000 students from around the country competed in 91 different trade, technical, and leadership fields.

Students work against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations like electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, medical assisting, and culinary arts. Contests are run with the help of industry, trade associations, and labor organizations, and test competencies are set by industry. Leadership contestants demonstrate skills including extemporaneous speaking and conducting meetings by parliamentary procedure.

The students compete to national standards with other students from all 50 states. The competitions are set up and judged by industry representatives. Over $20 million dollars is donated in time and equipment to the weeklong event.

SkillsUSA is a national organization that serves trade, industrial, technical, and health occupations, and students in public high schools, vocational centers, and colleges. The organization serves over 290,000 students nationwide, as well as three US territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands) and the District of Columbia.