News Releases

Community College Student Teams Compete in First-Ever CT State Culinary Challenge

For Immediate Release: 04 November 2022

Gateway Team

Photos from top to bottom: Gateway culinary team with CEO William “Terry” Brown, Ph.D. (on far right). • Manchester culinary team with CEO Nicole Esposito, Ed.D. (third from right). • Naugatuck Valley team with CEO Lisa Dresdner, Ph.D. (third from left). • Norwalk team with CEO Cheryl De Vonish, J.D. (on far right).


NEW HAVEN—Four teams of culinary arts and hospitality students from Gateway, Manchester, Naugatuck Valley and Norwalk Community Colleges competed in CT State’s first-ever Culinary Challenge on October 28 at Gateway Community College, with a tasting that was open to the community.

The teams each prepared two savory items and a sweet dish— one including pumpkin, which they served at individual college team tables. They also worked collaboratively to create a centerpiece with a charcuterie station, cheese, fruits, vegetables and assorted artisan breads.

Manchester Community College was awarded “Best Table Display,” “Best Savory,” “Best Dessert,” and “Best Utilization of the Featured Ingredient” by the panel of judges. Gateway Community College won the “People’s Choice” award, voted on by event attendees. Some of the small bites included broken vanilla bean pumpkin pie, kabocha pumpkin spiced crab croquette served with a gazpacho shooter, and green apple mousse layered with caramel and baked streusel crumble. Entries were rated on taste, creativity, appearance and execution.

Manchester Team

“This was a wonderful opportunity to bring awareness to an industry that was significantly impacted by the pandemic, and it resulted in many great connections among our students, instructors and Connecticut’s culinary community,” said CT State President John Maduko, M.D., who was joined by eight judges in scoring entries. “It was very difficult to choose our winners since everyone here did such an outstanding job.”  

“Our first-ever CT Culinary Challenge allowed the dedicated culinary faculty and students from four community colleges to shine, and we could not be more proud,” said CSCU President Terrence Cheng. “The event highlighted teamwork while engaging some of our state’s most influential industry professionals, to showcase the incredible talent and skills our students have. I hope this collaboration will become tradition at CT State. If Connecticut’s restaurant and hospitality industry needs talent, they do not have to look far.”

Prior to and during the challenge, each team had assistance from culinary program faculty chefs at their respective colleges—Chris Gentile and Andrew V. Randi from Gateway, Ricardo Aragon and Katherine Kern from Manchester, Karen Rotella from Naugatuck Valley; and Justin Davis from Norwalk.

Naugatuck Valley Team

The panel of judges included event emcee Chef Plum, co-host of Connecticut Public Radio’s weekly food show “Seasoned” and host and executive producer of “Restaurant Road Trip” on PBS, Michone Danae Arrington and Donte Jones both of The Art of Yum, Ben Dubow of Forge City Works, Marc Hussey of Connecticut Technical Education and Career System (CTECS), New Haven chef and restaurateur Emily Mingrone, Dan Monroe of Plum Luv Foods, and Mike Staib of Ergo Chef Knives.

Collectively, Gateway, Manchester, Naugatuck Valley and Norwalk Community Colleges offer both culinary arts and professional baker certificates, and associate degrees in culinary arts with a food service option. Students practice their skills in class and through organized lunches and dinners, some of which are open to the community for a fee. Over the years, culinary graduates have gone on to own restaurants and bakeries, serve as chefs and managers in restaurants, work in foodservice settings in health care, and hold other positions within the hospitality field.

Norwalk Team

Those who are interested in learning more about the culinary programs, can visit the following links. Spring semester begins January 20.



Naugatuck Valley:


The 12 community colleges in Connecticut are merging on July 1, 2023 to become CT State Community College, one of the largest community colleges in the country and largest in New England, dedicated to quality, access and affordability. Students will benefit from one college transcript and catalog, standardized financial aid, and the ability to take courses on any campus. The application for new students entering in fall 2023 is now open at Locations include Asnuntuck (Enfield), Capital (Hartford), Gateway (New Haven and North Haven), Housatonic (Bridgeport), Manchester, Middlesex (Middletown & Meriden), Naugatuck Valley (Waterbury and Danbury), Northwestern (Winsted), Norwalk, Quinebaug Valley (Danielson and Willimantic), Three Rivers (Norwich), and Tunxis (Farmington). Find out more at