New Orleans Travel Diary

New Orleans Travel Diary

Supporting Julio Chavez on His Way to Becoming Student Chef of the Year 2018

A group of culinary arts majors from SUNY Delhi traveled to New Orleans, LA, in July of 2018 to see fellow SUNY Delhi student Julio Chavez compete in the national Student Chef of the Year competition. Five student chefs representing the Northeast, Southeast, Western, and Central regions of the U.S., as well as the U.S. Military, competed for the national title at the “Cook. Craft. Create. National Convention & Show,” sanctioned and organized by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).

Diary written SUNY Delhi student Carly Yezzo

July 13, 2018

Today was our first day of traveling to New Orleans, Louisiana, to watch our friend Julio Chavez compete for the national title of Student Chef of the Year 2018! Our instructor, Chef Sean Pehrsson, my fellow SUNY Delhi students Jessica Shultis, Matthew Julius, Julian Pacheco, and I left Delhi at 7:30 a.m. During our first day on the road we stopped at multiple state signs so that we could take pictures next to them, including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee. We then stayed overnight at a hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee, and hit the road again at 8 a.m. the next day.

July 14, 2018

Today was our second day on our journey to NOLA. We woke up in Knoxville, Tennessee, this morning and started traveling at 8 a.m. We stopped at 3 more states today including Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. When we arrived at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans, we were greeted by Julio who flew down earlier this morning. After we all unpacked the van and got settled in, we ate dinner at Walk-On's. This is where we all ate alligator, some of us for the first time!

SUNY Dehi Instructor in frong of Louisianna signInstructor in front of Alabama signInstructor in front of Mississippi sign

July 15, 2018

Today is the day that the American Culinary Federation National Convention starts. Before it started, Jessica, Julio, Julian and I started off the day by having breakfast at Reginelli's Pizzeria. We then walked all around Bourbon Street and the French Quarter and stopped in all of the local shops and restaurants to really learn about the NOLA lifestyle! We also had the opportunity to stop at The Old Coffee Pot Gumbo, which is a restaurant that was featured on Gordon Ramsey's 24 Hours! At around 6 p.m. tonight, we had the Welcoming Reception where we got to network with several chefs and walk through the different vendors and try all of the food.

Group student shot with a mascotGroup shot of student support team A restaurant sign for a gumbo restaurant

July 16, 2018

The first thing that we all did today was attend the Opening General Session. At this session we got to hear Chef John Folse's journey from his very difficult childhood in the swamps of Louisiana to serving five U.S. presidents and taking his Louisiana flare to London and Hong Kong. His story was truly inspirational to hear! After that, Jessica and I attended a “Modern Filipino Sisig” class. We learned how to make sisig which is a pig head, pig liver, and sour vinegar dish and we even got to try it and we loved it. Later, Julio had his meeting with the judges where he was picked first to compete on Wednesday morning! Jessica, Matthew, and I spent the rest of the night at the pool! We also took some pictures in the lobby today.

Three Student Chefs posing for photoTwo student chefs posing for a photo

July 17, 2018

Today is the day that Julio Chavez competes for National Student Chef of the Year. We all woke up at 5:30 a.m. so that we could all help Julio set up for his run that started at 7 a.m. This was the most exciting day of the whole trip. Julio had a 10-minute set-up window, a 60-minute cooking window, and a 10-minute plating window to complete his dish. He competed with his own personally conceptualized dish using lamb, the protein which all of the regional student chefs must compete with. While Julio was competing, he looked very nervous, but also very put together. Julio kept his station clean and put up an amazing looking dish. He even left the judges saying, "You made this too easy for us!" during the judges’ critique. He made us all so proud!

After the competition was over, we were all able to walk around the trade show which featured the ACF sponsors, innovative equipment, and of course, food! During this time the student team and the knowledge bowl team competition were happening so we also watched a little bit of those. Jessica, Matthew, and I then attended a class called “Consumer and Culinary Trends” while Julio and Julian cleaned up Julio's equipment from competition. This class was one of our favorites during the week: it talked about consumer preferences, new flavors, and tips for creating successful dishes. For dinner tonight, Chef Pehrsson, Laura Pehrsson, Jessica, and I chose to eat at the Pythian Market because of the variety offered there. We enjoyed a bunch of different dishes, including fried oysters, cornbread with chicken liver mousse, lobster ceviche, tuna tartar, and garbage grits. We even met up with Certified Master Chef Dale Miller and got to hang out with him for the night! Now we must wait until Thursday to find out how Julio did in the competition.

SUNY Delhi team photoStudent Chefs at work in kitchen

July 18, 2018

We all started off the day today by attending the second general session of the National ACF Convention. This general session was all about how ethnic food made its way to America. The keynote speaker for this session was Chef Maneet Chauhan and we even got the chance to meet her after her speech and demo! Actually, Chef Maneet Chauhan and our instructor, Chef Pehrsson, were in the same graduating class from the Culinary Institute of America! After that, we were able to go to the competition floor and see the final dishes and cold food platters from the National Student Team competition. Here is where we ran into the ACF President, Chef Stafford DeCambra, and had the opportunity to take a picture with him. We spent the rest of the night walking around Bourbon Street and doing some more sightseeing!

Student chefs with Chef Maneet ChauhanGroup photo of student chefs and ACF President

July 19, 2018

Today is the day that we find out the results of Julio's competition. The first thing that we did today was attend a class called "Cooking in the New Millennia." This class was all about how technology can help us improve our organization while cooking in the upcoming years and it was taught by Certified Master Chef Rich Rosendale. After that, Chef Pehrsson, Jessica, and I attended the last general session of the convention. The keynote speaker for this session was Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and he demonstrated how to break down a 200-pound tuna! He then made Sashimi using the tuna and we were able to try it. I think that was the best thing that I ate during this trip. After the general session, we started getting ready for the President's Grand Ball Dinner. This dinner is when all of the awards to the competitors are given. We were served amazing food at this dinner, but more importantly, we found out Julio Chavez is now the 2018 National Student Chef of the Year! We were all filled with joy when his name was announced. We are all so incredibly proud of Julio and we are all so grateful that we were able to watch him compete for this amazing award. We spent the rest of the night celebrating Julio's win!

Julio Chavez after winning Student Chef of the YearDelhi students at banquet tableJulio Chavez and Professor Sean Pehrsson

July 20 and 21, 2018

We spent these days traveling back to SUNY Delhi. (I would like to say thank you to Chef Pehrsson for driving all of us to and from New Orleans, we all appreciate it!) When we got back to Delhi, we saw that Alumni Hall was all decorated by Dr. David Brower, Dean of the School of Business and Hospitality Management at SUNY Delhi, to congratulate Julio, which was so generous.

This American Culinary Federation National Convention was amazing and we are all so grateful to be a part of this organization! Thank you to everyone at SUNY Delhi that made this trip and competition possible!

Julio Chavez Wins National Student Chef of the Year

Culinary Arts Programs at SUNY Delhi