First-year culinary arts student Emma El-Farra won the American Culinary Federation competition held in Las Vegas on Feb. 2. El-Farra was named the Western Region Student Chef of the Year.

This year five students were accepted to compete and create a winning dish within one hour. The dishes were evaluated by four judges and ranked based off of criteria such as organization of the food, mise en place and taste.   

“My hands were shaking the entire time. They would not stop shaking from all the nerves,” El-Farra said. “I really wanted to get a gold medal. This was only my second competition, so I was brand new to the aspect of competing.”

According to El-Farra, she worked relentlessly to acquire and refine the skills that won her the competition.

“When I won, I was just very happy. I felt that I had done everything that I could to stand a shot at getting a gold. By the end, I felt very confident in my plate,” El-Farra said. “I was very happy to find out that all the hard work paid off.”

Chef Todd Leonard, culinary arts department chair and El-Farra’s mentor, also commented on El-Farra’s work ethic and ambition.

“I was not shocked at all when she won. She is awesome. She is a great student who has pride in what she does. She is competitive, dedicated to what she does, and wants to be the best,” Leonard said. “She is a fantastic student who is worthy of everything. She is a unique, special person who is extremely hardworking.”

El-Farra will be advancing onto the next round of the competition to compete at the national level against other regional champions. The American Culinary Federation’s “Final Five” competition will be held in Orlando this summer.

“I am very happy to be a student at UVU and to be trained by Chef Todd,” El-Farra said. “I am looking forward to competing again and hopefully bringing home the national title.”