November 10, 2011

CIA Student Competes at WorldSkills London 2011

Rachel Koppelman
Rachel Koppelman

Article from the student newspaper, La Papillote.

Twenty-year old CIA student Rachel Koppelman made a voyage to London this past October 5 to compete in the WorldSkills competition. Ms. Koppelman recently completed her externship at Eleven Madison Park. Before she arrived at The Culinary Institute of America, Rachel competed in SkillsUSA competitions in her hometown of Columbia, Missouri. She won the Missouri State Competition in 2010 and then the gold medal at the SkillsUSA national culinary arts competition in Kansas City that same year.

Rachel, being a national medalist, was identified as the competitor for WorldSkills London in September 2011.

Under the direction of Chef Bruce Mattel, Rachel began practicing recipes and concepts for WorldSkills beginning in the fall of 2010. She came back six weeks early from her externship, which had started in April and cooked all day for six weeks prior to the competition alongside Chef Mattel.

There was a shift in both the mindsets of Chef Mattel and Rachel when in July, the director sent out a final version of rules and regulations. Rachel had been practicing different recipes and therefore, had to quickly start over in re-creating dishes.

The London competition lasted for four days (starting October 5). There were seventeen competitors on the SkillsUSA team (anything from welding to printing). Fifty different contests were taking place all in the same exhibition center. Rachel was the only culinary USA representative. She competed eight hours each day (Days One and Three) during the contest. Koppelman had only three and a half hours to prepare her mise en place. The executions of her courses were in between thirty to sixty minute windows after the preparation time. Rachel prepared four courses each day.

Day One consisted of the following menu: a salad with goat cheese, a mystery fish entrée, a duck entrée, and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. The second day went as follows: shrimp and salmon for a starter, oxtail soup, a venison entrée, and a mystery three-component dessert.

Rachel Koppelman came within five points (out of 100 points) of the top scorer and earned a Medallion of Excellence (this was only given to competitors that scored over a specific threshold of 500/800).

Currently, Rachel is helping out the SkillsUSA chapter here on campus with Chef Mullooly. Being a former swimmer, Rachel is a champion at heart. She felt very accomplished at the end of it all because she knew how versatile her cooking skills were. Everything came naturally to her in the kitchen, unlike some other contestants, Some of Rachel’s rituals included eating a peanut butter sandwich and listening to her favorite song to get her pumped up.