Madeline Black, a culinary arts student, was named the nation’s Student Chef of the Year at the American Culinary Federation’s national convention July 13. “She just finished her first year [of culinary school] and already won the most prestigious competition for a student chef,” Todd Leonard, UVU’s chef instructor and Black’s mentor, said.
“I was in a baking class when I auditioned to be the student chef of the year,” Black said. “I was one month in the program and I didn’t really know what I was doing. I’m a competitive person and I love food, so I tried out.”
Black was selected to represent UVU as Student Chef of the Year in the American Culinary Federation regional competition. After taking the win at the regional level, she made her way to nationals in Orlando, Florida.
“Here at UVU my chef mentor, Todd, really took me under his wing as he prepared me for competition,” Black said. “And I wasn’t just learning how to build my plate. He took a lot of time to just make me the best that I could be,” Black said.
Black prepared for the national competition every weekday for over a month and a half. The month before this practice consisted of repeated trial and error tests as she perfected her recipes and gained insight from Leonard and other chefs.
“Just the way she moves, her discipline, her speed — she is naturally born perfect in cooking,” Leonard said. Black’s winning plate included duck roulade, honey lacquered duck thigh-riblet, pan seared foie gras with port and morel mushroom sauce, served with potatoes gratin, celeriac and pea puree, rhubarb chutney and summer vegetables. “Most students couldn’t do that, Madeline could,” Leonard said.
“There are always challenges. Something is always going to go wrong so I’ve had to learn to work on my feet and overcome anything that gets thrown at me,” Black said about the competition. “I have mental practices where I just plate over and over again.”
Black’s success in the industry is just beginning, and she will continue to compete in other competitions in the future. “I’m just loving learning,” Black said. “I don’t know what my end goal is yet. I still have one year of culinary school then I want to get my bachelor’s degree. I don’t want to own my own restaurant, though, I know that.”
Black’s advice to students wanting to get involved in the industry is to take risks. “That is really when you learn,” Black said. “Come in wanting to learn and work hard. In this program, you get out what you put in. Learn all you can.”