Hamilton culinary team sets record with 3 gold medals at national cooking competition

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Published July 27, 2022 at 11:38 am

Hamilton culinary team sets record with 3 gold medals at national cooking competition
The award-winning culinary team that represented McMaster Hospitality Services in the Canadian College and University Food Service Association annual culinary challenge. (John Barreda (left), Marcia Traynor, (middle) Chris Devenny (right) and Rochelle Dixon).

A trio of Hamilton-based culinary students made history at the 2022 Canadian College and University Food Service Association cooking challenge.

The McMaster University Hospitality Services team, led by Chef John Barreda, was the first to win all three available gold medals at the competition.

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Barreda was joined by assistant, Chris Devenney, and apprentice, Marcia Traynor, who also works at McMaster’s La Piazza.

Three teams from competing universities and colleges prepared a three-course meal for a panel of judges who assess the meal based on complexity, presentation, and theme choice.

This year’s panel included celebrity judge Chef Mark McEwan of Top Chef Canada and Wall of Chefs.

The McMaster team says it prepared for over a month, planning and testing their menu options.

Traynor is the first apprentice to ever compete in the event. She told McMaster Daily News’ Allison Mullin that she felt both excited and nervous.

“I was so happy to participate, but I also really wanted to win,” says Traynor.

“When I saw the menu, I got a little nervous. It was ambitious and took a lot of planning and preparation. But everyone was encouraging and made me feel part of the team, even though I was working behind the scenes.”

Marcia Traynor working at McMaster’s La Piazza. (Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University photo)

Traynor says she’s been passionate about cooking since she was a nine-year-old girl living in Jamaica. She decided to pursue her passion for cooking when she immigrated to Canada in 2016.

“When I came to Canada, I decided that I wanted to do something I loved,” says Traynor.

“Joining this program has been an amazing opportunity for me. I can earn money while learning, and everyone at McMaster has been very supportive.”

She’s part of a program that provides McMaster Food Service employees with the opportunity to attend a culinary school and complete the apprenticeship portions of their program by working at McMaster so they can continue receiving their wages and benefits.

“I am so proud of this team and all the work they had to do to win,” says Chris Roberts, director of Hospitality Services at McMaster.

“It’s competitions like this that help maintain our high culinary reputation, and this team just excelled in all aspects of the competition. I’m particularly proud because I believe we are the only team who has ever included an apprentice, and Marcia rose to the challenge.”

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