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Culinary Arts Student Finishes 14th Among 45 Pros

In the World Seafood Championship, Pennsylvania College of Technology student Jessica N. Felton finished 14th among 45 competitors, just four spots from advancing to the Top 10 Round.

The World Seafood Championship was one of nine categories comprising 550 competitors in the World Food Championships, held in Las Vegas from Nov. 12-18. The champion of each of the nine categories faced off at the Final Table to determine the World Food Champion, who went home with $100,000.

Felton, of State College, is pursuing a degree in culinary arts and systems at Penn College. The college was presented with a “Golden Ticket” to the World Food Championships by Chef Ben Vaughn, host of a television show based on the championships, when he visited the college to share his knowledge with School of Business & Hospitality students. Felton was chosen to receive the Golden Ticket by winning a faculty-judged cook-off among other Penn College students.

While in Las Vegas, Felton visited a reception at the new restaurant of world-renowned chef Daniel Boulud, who autographed a copy of his book and posed for a photo with her.
While in Las Vegas, Felton visited a reception at the new restaurant of world-renowned chef Daniel Boulud, who autographed a copy of his book and posed for a photo with her.

In Las Vegas, she faced chefs who earned their way to the championship by winning prestigious seafood cook-offs around the country and overseas.

“I felt pretty good about how I competed, though I felt like I could have done better in a couple of areas,” she said. “The competition itself was actually fun once I got over the stressful parts of buying all my food, plates and last-minute equipment.”

Felton and other competitors in the two-hour World Seafood Championship opening round were required to make a signature dish (Felton’s was shrimp and grits) as well as a fish taco.

After the competition, Felton enjoyed food-related events connected with the championships, including a book-signing and cocktail party at renowned chef Daniel Boulud’s new db Brasserie.

“I got to meet him and have him sign a copy of ‘Letters to a Young Chef,’” she said. “He even stepped behind the bar and made drinks for me and a couple of others. It was an incredible experience, and the food was wonderful!”

Felton, a sophomore at Penn College, said she’s always had a “deep connection” to food.

“I grew up in a home where food was the center of celebrations, holidays and family,” she said. “I loved the way it brought people together. Since the age of 16, I worked in restaurants and was drawn to the pace and the atmosphere. I always hesitated going to culinary school because I was scared of failure or finding out I wasn’t cut out for it. After working full time a while for a catering company, my best friend pushed me to pursue my dream, and I finally did.”

She was grateful for the opportunity to participate in the World Food Championships.

“It has been a surreal and exciting experience,” she said.

To learn more about hospitality majors at Penn College, call 570-327-4505.

For more about the college, which is celebrating its Centennial throughout 2014, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.