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October 5, 2012 2:54 PM

Iron Chef kicks off Oktoberfest

Shannon Thompson's journey with Conestoga has come full circle. The founder and co-owner of Hog Tails Bar B Que happily shared her expertise and experience with first-year culinary students at the 2nd annual Oktoberfest Iron Chef competition held on Thursday, October 4 at Bingeman's in Kitchener.

flames4.jpgA 2007 graduate of the Hospitality Management program, Thompson sees great significance in being involved in the event, especially when she can pass along the benefits of her Conestoga education to future students. "I have kept my connection with Conestoga really strong and I have kept in contact with my teachers and so it is great when they ask us to be a part of this," Thompson said. "I love being able to advocate that when you work hard and you love what you do, you can actually do what you go to school for."

touches.jpg In its second year, the Iron Chef competition, modeled after the popular TV show of the same name, brings Conestoga hospitality management and culinary students together with local chefs and gives them hands-on experience working in the restaurant industry. Conestoga's Matthew Worden, who functioned as maître d for the evening, sees huge benefit for Conestoga students. "These are all year-one students, many of whom don't have restaurant experience, so this is their first real taste of getting beyond the school," said Worden. "They are all in week 5, and everyone is still very young and very green, so this is a real icebreaker."

Local hospitality businesses and restaurants are also happy to participate in the event, which supports the development of scholarships for Conestoga's culinary and hospitality students. Bingemans' president Mark Bingeman describes Conestoga and its students as "a vital part of our growth pattern," and believes events such as the Iron Chef competition will be instrumental in keeping highly trained students in the area. "If we can support the educational component - and educate not only in the academic sense but in terms of real-life industry experience, we can make sure we play our part and we all grow together," he said.

The event also provides an opportunity to promote bloom, the upscale student-run restaurant located at Conestoga's Waterloo campus. "We hope to raise awareness and have guests come and experience bloom," said Worden. "Our dining room is open to the public, but it is also a live classroom."

As for Thompson, her expertise ended up benefitting not just the Conestoga students working with her, but her own restaurant as well. Hog Tails Bar B Q was chosen by the judges as the event's top prize winner.

Judges Choice:

1st: Hogtails
2nd: Gusto Catering
3rd: Bauer Kitchen

People’s Choice:

1st: Waterloo Inn
2nd: Gusto Catering
3rd: Bingemans

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