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Class 131 Cook-Off: Adapting On and Off the Plate  

No food captures American culture more than the classic burger.  

On a Wednesday afternoon, our latest Culinary Job Training (CJT) cohort, Class 131, marked its eighth week of our training program with a Cook-off, where students work in teams to demonstrate their knife skills and practice collaborating with different personalities to create a featured dish. The result: four unique, delicious burgers that demonstrated that burgers can be more than simply a beef patty on a bun. 

With innovative variations like a Hawaiian-inspired Aloha Burger and a cheese-covered Nacho Mac Burger, Class 131 reimagined this American classic for our judges and our guests.  

Associate Director of Global Responsibility Jennifer Griffith from class sponsor Raytheon Technologies, Chosen Chef Catering Owner Duriel Barnes, Hayward Private Chef & Catering Owner Kim Akers, and DCCK’s Director of Facilities Ed Lichorat brought their experience and tastebuds to the cook-off judging panel.  

“This is such a unique dish. I have never seen a burger like this one,” remarked Chef Kim Akers when commenting on one team’s decadent Nacho Mac Burger.  

Students recounted challenges in the kitchen to the judges, describing a range of unexpected curveballs from having to change a caramelizing method at the last minute to adjusting their menus around available meats. “We had to plan for this meal, but there are some things you cannot plan. You have to improvise. You have to adapt in the moment. That’s a life lesson too – it’s not just something that shows up in the kitchen,” said Micah C. 

In the end, Team “With Luv” took home first place for their delicious Teriyaki Burger served on a bao bun.  

“I almost quit the program,” said Team “With Luv” member Michael E. “But our instructors were there for me. They have taught me to show up and pushed me to grow. I’ve never had that before.”

That high level of concern and care for one another was evident to everyone in the room. Despite the competitive nature of cook-off, the event brought out a powerful sense of support between the classmates. Students from different teams ended the competition by congratulating one another, remarking on each other’s plating choices, and discussing upcoming externship opportunities at partner organizations like Hilton’s Canopy Hotel and the Cambria Hotel in SW DC.  

“We are all focus instruments, kind of like a knife in the kitchen,” said Alvin S. “We come together to create something wonderful.”  

We know Class 131 will continue to come together to create wonderful, creative dishes for our hospitality sector as they head into their internship and externship opportunities before graduating at the end of this month. To celebrate this outstanding class, please join us for their graduation at THEARC Theater at 2:00 PM on Friday, October 28th. The ceremony will include a keynote speech from Raytheon Technologies, our long-time partner who has sponsored over 135 CJT students so far, a CJT alumni speaker, and a reception featuring small bites from our Cafe & Catering team. 

If you are interested in hiring one of these adaptable and hard-working students, please contact Workforce Development Specialist Aisha Ruhland.