Missoula student in top three for chef of the year

UM Culinary student Katie Barnes

Deep fried malasada a winner

MISSOULA  Katie Barnes, a second-year culinary arts student at Missoula College University of Montana, placed second at the American Culinary Federation’s Student Chef of the Year competition, winning a silver medal.

The competition took place Feb. 3-5 in Joliet, Illinois. Barnes competed among ten other semifinalists from colleges across the region for the Student Chef of the Year title. The first-place winner went on to compete in nationals.

katie barne dish


For her final dish, Barnes prepared deep-fried malasada with milk-chocolate ganache; blood-orange caramel sauce; caramel iced-banana slices; macadamia nut pineapple ice cream; macadamia tuile; and candied cilantro leaf.

“I think I slept a whole three hours the night before,” Barnes said.

The Student Chef of the Year winner was announced Feb. 7, but Barnes had to wait another week to learn how she placed among the other competitors. After much anticipation, Barnes found out that she placed second with a score of 83.

Barnes said she now feels even more motivated to compete for Student Chef of the Year again next year and win the title.

“This makes me want to try that much harder to be back there next year and win,” Barnes said. “I’d love to make it to nationals – that in itself would be awesome.” 

The competition also served as a great learning experience, Barnes said. She met professional chefs from around the world competing for the ACF Chef of the Year title. One master chef even encouraged Barnes to compete for the ACF Culinary Team USA – otherwise known as the “Culinary Olympics Team.”

In the meantime, Barnes is encouraging other culinary students to compete. Several Missoula College culinary students have shown interest in competition and she hopes to enter upcoming culinary competitions near Missoula with them.

“Winning Student Chef of the Year is the largest achievement you can get as a student competitor,” Barnes said.


Competitors range in age from 18 to 25 and will choose to make an entrée or dessert dish, using competition-specified ingredients.  
Barnes plans to serve up a dessert for the judges and is required to use macadamia nuts, pineapple and banana. 


Barnes and her coach, Missoula College chef instructor Thomas Campbell, have spent much of winter break preparing for the February competition.


Barnes credits MC chef instructor Aimee Elliott as the motivation to enter culinary competitions. As a graduate of the college’s Culinary Arts program herself, Elliott has mentored and motivated Barnes to do her best. 


“She doesn’t hesitate to begin practice at 5 a.m. and give up her weekends and holiday breaks to learn the most she can as a student culinarian,” Elliott said. 


She said the competition gave Barnes the experience she deserves to escalate an already promising career in culinary arts.
Last May, Barnes won a gold medal at another ACF and Washington State Chefs Association culinary competition in Bellingham.
“Bellingham really sealed the deal for me in terms of competing,” Barnes said. “We practiced every day for that competition. Some days we would be in the kitchen from 4:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. But all of the stress and preparation you do up until competitions is worth it when you finish your dish.”


Barnes said ultimately she wants to learn as much as she can from competing.


“I think competing can make you a better cook and teach you to handle those stressful situations in the kitchen,” she said. “It’s a lot of work but very rewarding.”


MC is supporting Barnes’ participation in the competition. To support scholarships for culinary arts students or the Culinary Arts program, call Drew Cable, Missoula College development director, at 406-243-2585 or email drew.cable@mso.umt.edu.




Please note, comments must be approved before they are published