jessica henson 2018 skillsusa new york winnerStudents from The Culinary Institute of America took home gold medals in both the Baking & Pastry and Culinary Arts categories at the New York State SkillsUSA competition at Alfred State College in Wellsville, NY on March 24.

Freshman Jessica Henson of Lewiston, ME was the winner among postsecondary students in baking and pastry arts and sophomore Ashley Tolley of Glen Rock, PA took top honors among the culinary arts competitors. In addition, CIA sophomore Seth Jordan of Alva, OK was the silver medalist on the culinary side.

"For our students who participate, competing is SkillsUSA is a valuable addition to their education," says CIA professor and SkillsUSA advisor Ezra Eichelberger. "When they prepare for competition in the various categories, you can see them develop—not only in the specific skills for that particular event, but also in their organizational skills, interpersonal skills, and overall professionalism."

The students trained under CIA faculty members Lance Nitahara and Didier Berlioz. Chef Nitahara is a CIA graduate who won several culinary competitions as a student.

With their victories at the state level, Henson and Tolley have earned the opportunity to represent the CIA at the SkillsUSA national competition this June in Louisville, KY. In 2017, CIA students took silver medals in both Culinary Arts and Restaurant Service at the nationals. Since 2006, the college has had more than a dozen gold medal winners at the state level and seven gold medal winners at the national competition.