Four Culinary students were awarded a total of $13,000 in scholarships as part of the inaugural George Macht Scholarship Challenge held last month at College of DuPage’s Culinary and Hospitality Center.
The new event, comprised of pastry and culinary challenges, provides students in Culinary, Baking and Pastry Arts programs with the opportunity to compete for first prize scholarships of $4,500 and second prize scholarships of $2,000.
“The mission of this challenge is not just competition for financial gain,” said Macht, a COD alumnus and retired faculty of 34 years who created the scholarship. “It’s also an opportunity for the students to learn in the process of this challenge through practice and study.”
As the Hospitality Administration program coordinator and professor, Macht inspired countless students both as an educator and as a chef. Macht is known for his leadership and the instrumental role he played in building COD’s Culinary and Hospitality program. Upon retiring in 2008, Macht created an endowment under his name at the College of DuPage Foundation to support scholarships for students majoring in Culinary or Hospitality programs.
The scholarships awarded to students who competed in the challenges will help cover tuition, fees, books and supplies.
“I’ve known George for 30 years and he mentored me so when he came to us with this idea for the scholarship, we both agreed that we wanted this to be about learning for the students and not just awarding funds,” said David Kramer, Chair and Associate Professor of Culinary, Baking and Pastry Arts.
For students passionate about food and hospitality, the College offers an Associate in Applied Science degree and a certificate in both Culinary Arts or Baking and Pastry Arts. Classes are taught in a state-of-the-art kitchen and facilities in the 65,000 square-foot Culinary and Hospitality Center, including the George Macht Skills Kitchen.
To prepare for each competition, students studied and practiced recipes for each of the items that they presented to a panel of judges. Before competing, students were also able to watch a faculty member demonstrate how to prepare each recipe.
“All of the ingredients and equipment are provided, so it’s not like they have to bring anything from home,” Macht said. “It’s all provided at the College and totally funded by the College so we have completely leveled the playing field.”
Students were encouraged to practice ahead of the event, ask their instructors questions, and even cook and ask for feedback from their friends and family. The scholarship challenges were open to first-year Baking and Culinary students with a GPA of 2.0 or higher.
Janine Preciado took home first prize and Noelle DeCore won second prize in the Pastry Arts Challenge. Gabriela Escobar took home first prize and Matthew Janiszewski won second prize in the Culinary Challenge.
During the competitions, judges observed each student working at their stations and evaluated their cooking skills.
The Pastry Arts Challenge was judged by a panel, which included Macht, Guittard Chocolate Company Pastry Chef Josh Johnson and Natalie Francia, an alumna of the COD Culinary program and chef at Blackberry Market in Glen Ellyn and LaGrange.
Macht said he hopes to continue the Scholarship Challenge each semester. In addition to helping students practice their skills, he said the competitions are also good preparation for when students transition to the workforce, where they are often asked to prepare food as part of an interview for culinary and baking positions.
He emphasized that there are many career opportunities in all segments of the hospitality industry, and noted the industry is in dire need of qualified staff and employees in many areas.
“That being the case, we want to do everything we can to make the community aware of the fact that there are phenomenal opportunities in the hospitality industry,” Macht said.