GRCC culinary student vies for spot in national competition



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications

(616) 234-4213

Feb. 4, 2015 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A student from Grand Rapids Community College’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education will face off against peers from eight other schools in the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition.

Megan Garstecki and coach Sasha Ahmed will travel to SD26 restaurant in New York City for the Northeast regional competition on Feb. 8 and 9. Winners of the five regional competitions will advance to the national competition, which will be held in March in Napa Valley, Calif.

Garstecki, from St. Joseph, is pursuing a culinary management degree at SICE and plans to graduate next year. She then plans to get a degree in certified dietary management at Ferris State University with the goal of becoming a dietician in either a hospital or nursing home.

“I think this competition will help to open many doors to my career — not only through networking and forming lasting relationships with my chef-instructors, fellow classmates and coach, but also with giving me the experience in creating a dish from start to finish that looks as good as it tastes,” she said. “My goal as a dietitian is to provide healthy and delicious recipes that people actually want to eat. This competition has also given me a sense of pride to be able to represent all of the amazing people involved in the SICE program.”

While the national competition will be a challenge, Ahmed said Garstecki already has proven that she has skills and endurance.

“Megan had to go through two rounds of rigorous tryouts up against 19 other students to come out on top and represent our department,” said Ahmed, an assistant professor at SICE. “Since then, she has had to create and develop a dish for her competition, and comes in at 7 a.m. at least three mornings a week to perfect it.”

Of the almost 700 Title IX culinary schools nationwide, only a few are invited to participate in the competition hosted by the international beverage company. This is the third year that SICE has competed.

“The whole process of competing in hot food competitions is a great way for our students to push themselves and gain valuable life and work skills that they would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere,” Ahmed said.

The Secchia Institute for Culinary Education offers associate degrees in the culinary arts with culinary, culinary management, baking and pastry arts, and personal chef tracks, as well as personal chef, and baking and pastry arts certifications. To learn more about SICE, click here.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.