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Turning the Tables: Capital Food Fight Champion in the Judge’s Seat

Jennifer Robben
DCCK Chili Cook off 12/8/23

On December 8th, the students from Class 161 marked the halfway point of their  Culinary Job Training experience with their highly anticipated Chili Cook-off! Team “DC Heat” came out victorious with their “Award-Winning White Chicken Chili” – a flavorful twist on the classic, featuring white beans, chicken, and a generous dose of green chilis in a creamy base that delighted the judges’ taste buds.

Our students shared insights about their experience of cooking on a team and handling the pressure of a timed competition. DC Heat team member Amy M. shared, “You feel like everybody’s personality kind of came together and made the chili. Because everybody had an input, it wasn’t just one person.” The students found success by leveraging each other’s strengths. Another fundamental lesson learned was, “patience. That was the biggest thing for me working as a team and coming together, everybody had good ideas, but less is more,” said Monica B., DC Heat’s team captain. “We did less and ended up winning.

DCCK Chili Cook Off 12/8/23

Team DC Heats’ White Chicken Chili

As part of our Culinary Job Training Program, each student is given the opportunity to showcase their culinary skills before an esteemed panel of judges. Estuary‘s Chef and 2023 Capital Food Fight Champion Ria Montes joined City Club of Washington’s Executive Chef Marc Wilson, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, Ballou High School Culinary Instructor Shanel Howard, Jasmine Saville of Amerigroup, and V-Tech Solution’s Melissa Moore at the judges’ table. Following the event, Chef Ria sat down with us to talk about the experience of judging her first Cook-off.

  1. What was your biggest takeaway from the Chili Cook-off?

Chef Ria:Truly the biggest takeaway from me was how all the students talked about their self-empowerment classes.” Ria applauded our holistic approach, recognizing the importance of working on the individual rather than just teaching skills.

  1. What advice would you give any students pursuing a career in the culinary arts?

Chef Ria: “The most important thing is that no matter what kind of situation you are in, you need to remember that the first person who should be investing in you is yourself. The investment you put in yourself will show, and in turn, people will invest in you.”

  1. What kind of techniques helped you handle the pressure while competing in the Capital Food Fight?

Chef Ria:Definitely pick someone who knows how you work. Sean (Sous Chef) and I are very lucky we’ve been working and cooking together for years now. We also are very good at calming each other down.”

Chef Ria’s advice to future Cook-off students is to focus on the simplicity and flavor of the dish, and above all, trust your team. Class 161 demonstrated the power of collaboration in the Chili Cook-off, proving that teamwork truly makes the dream work!

DCCK Chili Cook off 12/8/23

Team DC Heat with cook-off judges 

DCCK Chili Cook off 12/8/23

Chef Ria Montes and Culinary Job Training Students