A Culinary Champion

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Culinary arts student earns silver medal at SkillsUSA National Championship

by Josiah Thomas, News Editor
Featured image courtesy of Margeret Fleming

Schoolcraft’s outstanding reputation for its Culinary Arts department shines again with its latest success story, Amina Berberovic. Everything Berberovic learned from her experience at American Harvest, the student operated restaurant located inside the VisTaTech Center, played a huge part in receiving a silver medal at SkillsUSA National Championship in Louisville, Ky this past July.

“I don’t think that I really understood what a big deal it was until I (got silver),” said Berberovic. “It really didn’t feel real… I kept on trying to remind myself to just have fun.”

Berberovic qualified for nationals by placing first in the Michigan’s SkillsUSA state championships last March at the Culinary Institute of Michigan, Port Huron campus.

The SkillsUSA Championships are competitive events showcasing the best career and technical education students in the nation. Contests begin locally and continue through the state and national levels. These contests are a way to ensure America has a skilled workforce.

Berberovic won her silver medal in the Restaurant Service PostSecondary category by constantly applying herself and practicing even on the days when she didn’t have class. She put all her skills to use in both her studies and in her current job at American Harvest Restaurant. These skills include guest service, hosting, wine service and food pairings, beverage service, table-side food preparation, sanitation, formal table-set, food and preparation styles.

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Photos by Clarisa Russenberger

In 2018, there were more than 6,500 contestants in 103 separate events. Nearly 2,000 judges and contest organizers from labor and management make the national event possible.

The purpose of the Championships is to reward students for excellence, to involve industry in directly evaluating student performance and to keep training relevant to employers’ needs. From this, students can expect greater confidence in their abilities, fuel for their ambition, recognition for their talent at the competitions and exposure to a rich new world outside of the campus. The students who reach the high bar set by SkillsUSA are sure to be America’s future.

With a network of support, including Maitre’d Margaret Fleming, Certified Master Chef Kevin Gawronski (retired) and Certified Master Chef Shawn Loving’s past experience and mentorship, Berberovic bested 16,000 competitors across 300 categories, impressing thousands of judges and contest organizers.

“From the very beginning, it was obvious that her position was more than just a part-time job for her,” Fleming said of Berberovic. “She had a great work ethic, and always displayed a professional, attentive and kind demeanor not only to our guests but to her co-workers and staff as well.”

Berberovic looks forward to the possibilities that lie ahead.

“I remember Chef Loving was telling me how he had participated in competitions with (SkillsUSA) and now he’s a Master Chef.” On the opportunities this has opened up, she adds “I think it really is a gateway to bigger things. I think it just gets bigger from there.”

Berberovic stays close with her fellow competitors from Nationals. The competitors shared space with each other and take pride in their schools and as Berberovic recalls from last summer, “I’m with other people that were passionate about the same things that I am passionate about and I still talk to the people that I’ve met in my company competition at Nationals.”

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Photos Courtesy of Margeret Fleming

So, where will Berberovic go from here?

With her silver medal from Nationals, Berberovic is now qualified to compete next July for a spot on the SkillsUSA World 2021 team. If she makes the team, she would have the honor of representing her college, state, and country at the competition in China in 2021.

“I’m excited,” said Berberovic. “I kept to myself. I was never a competitive person, but now I want this. I don’t just want it for my school or for Margaret. Over the course of all of the training, I started to want it for myself, too.”

If she places first in that competition, she will earn a spot on the SkillsUSA World team. Berberovic looks forward to this opportunity saying, “I want to see what’s next and I’m hungry for more.”