June 20th, 2018

CIA Students and Faculty “On Point” in Competition


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A fun time was had by all the students and teachers participating in The Culinary Institute of America’s most recent on-campus cooking competition. But there could only be one winning team. 

It was as close as it can get, but in the end, Chef Lance Nitahara and his commis, CIA student Sydney Kamp, earned the top prize in the college’s 2nd Annual On Point Challenge held June 4 on the New York campus. Competitors were charged with embodying the philosophy and culinary legacy of legendary French chef Fernand Point, using recipes directly from his famed book, Ma Gastronomie. 

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The duo barely edged out Chef Melissa Walnock and her commis Andy Ortega for the title, 262-261!

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Professor Rory Brown and commis Carson Moreland finished third.

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In also winning the cocktail portion of the competition, Chef Nitahara and Sydney will have their creation, French 55, profiled as the signature drink in the CIA’s Bocuse Restaurant. 

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An audience of appreciative CIA students cheered them on, and made it a clean sweep for the victors when their online vote for People’s Choice Award favored both members of Team Nitahara as well. 

The challenge featured a champagne-based cocktail, a main course featuring fish and stuffed mushrooms, and a crêpes suzette dessert. Judges were Baking and Pastry Arts Dean Thomas Vaccaro, Culinary Arts Dean Brendan Walsh, and last year’s On Point champion, Associate Professor John Reilly 

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All three commis thoroughly enjoyed the experience. “The competition was fierce, but everyone was helping everyone else out,” Sydney said. “The hardest part was not having enough containers…but if that’s the worst thing you face, it’s a good day!” 

Her fellow student participants echoed those sentiments. “There was lots of improvisation,” said Carson. “It was a wonderful experience…it’s fun!” Added Andy, “This competition made me more confident in what I can do.” 

The winning team received a high-end chef’s knife donated by Japanese knife company Korin, and all competitors took home a copy of Point’s book as well as a set of mugs from the college. Steelite International also supported the competition by providing the ingredients, glassware, and service vessels.  

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Regardless of the final tally, it was a rewarding event for all involved. Professor Brown may have best captured the spirit of the competition when he said, “I’m just happy being up here, cooking with my friends.”