GTCC culinary students hope competition will help lead to solid careers in the field

Published on: April 18, 2024
Chunlee Tith (left) and Ila Seamans pose for a photo in one of the GTCC kitchen.
Chunlee Tith, left, and Ila Seamans made GTCC proud at the American Culinary Federation regional pasty competition.

 Culinary students Ila Seamans and Chunlee Tith put their skills to the test last weekend when they competed and medalled in the American Culinary Federation regional pasty competition in Sarasota, Fla. Seamans won her competition and Tith took home third.

Seamans hopes pastry preparation will propel her to a rather unique career.

“It was an amazing experience, and it feels amazing that I have reached this goal and honored that I get to go to nationals,” said Seamans, a culinary arts and hospitality facilities management major at Guilford Technical Community College who will graduate in May.

“This was a great opportunity to learn and grow professionally. I was glad to have my coach and my cohort there to help encourage me,” she said after returning home.

Seamans was so focused on the competition, she wouldn’t even share what she was cooking prior to the event. So what was her secret pastry creation? A warm banana cake with a banana fosters sauce, vibrant orange fluid gel, and marinated orange segments accompanied by indulgent salted chocolate, and pecan praline creamy brown butter pecan ice cream.

Many, or even most culinary students, would be hoping a victory in such a prestigious competition would propel them toward a position in a trendy New York or Los Angeles restaurant. Not Seamans.

“I have two goals. One, I hope to work for the Coast Guard and get on their competition team. That is plan A,” said Seamans, who noted that would require joining the Coast Guard. “It’s just my passion to compete and my sense of serving my country at the same time. It’s the best of both worlds. I could cook with them and get opportunities I want, like competing in the culinary Olympics.”

Plan B?

“If there is some reason I couldn’t join the Coast Guard, I would actually want to be a yacht chef. I just love the ocean.”

Chunlee Tith takes home third

Tith, a 26-year-old who will graduate next month, showcased a four-bone pork roast in the Student Chef of the Year category. After roasting the pork, he cut it into four chops and made four plates with a starch, vegetables, and any other components.

Tith, who has cooking experience at the professional level, is unsure of his exact career route, but has some interesting options.

“There’s a lot I’d like to do in this industry,” said Tith, whose family is from Cambodia. “I would like to do street-style food. There’s a lot of street food in Cambodia, and it would be interesting to bring that food industry here.

“I would also like to do something like fine dining, but have some comfort food, too. If I do fine dining, I’d like to think I’m putting on a show. I’d want to entertain.”

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