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Penn College Student Headed for World Food Championships

Pennsylvania College of Technology student Jessica N. Felton is packing her bags for the World Food Championships in downtown Las Vegas, where she will join hundreds of competitors in a six-day “ultimate food fight” that culminates with a $100,000 prize.

Felton, a State College resident in the college’s culinary arts and systems major, won the opportunity to compete at the championships after Chef Ben Vaughn, who hosts a television series based on the championships, visited Penn College in September and offered a Golden Ticket to the competition to one student.

Six Penn College students competed against one another in a faculty-judged cook-off to determine who would make the trip. Felton prevailed with her shrimp and grits dish.

The dish, inspired by her love of Southern cuisine and, particularly, the “low country” foods of South Carolina, consists of a base of creamy stone-ground grits with a roasted-tomato bacon gravy, butter-poached shrimp, pickled red onion and sweet pepper.

Jessica N. Felton
Jessica N. Felton

“I spent my summer interning in Charleston (South Carolina) and ate many variations of the dish while there and found so much inspiration in each interpretation,” Felton said.

She interned at the acclaimed restaurant Cypress. The restaurant’s executive chef, Craig Deihl, is a Danville, Pennsylvania, native and was a Visiting Chef at the college in 2007.

“I also was inspired by some of the techniques – like butter poaching and pickling – I learned on my internship and wanted to pay homage to the chefs and cooks who taught me so much this summer.”

In Las Vegas, Felton will compete in the World Seafood Championship. That category’s opening-round competition will take place Friday, Nov. 14, when Felton will be among up to 50 competitors who have almost two hours to cook a signature seafood dish – for Felton, her shrimp and grits – and their best version of a fish taco.

The Top 10 competitors from the World Seafood Championship opening round will advance to the category finals on Nov. 16, when they will have almost two hours to prepare a dish with an assigned “infused ingredient”: beer.

The top three finishers in the World Seafood Championship will receive prizes of $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500 respectively, and the top finisher will advance to the “final table” on Nov. 18 against the eight other category winners, the winner of which will be named the 2014 World Food Champion and receive $100,000.

“I think to do well at the competition, you need to be very organized, have a thorough plan and keep focused,” Felton said.

She’s looking forward to gaining experience in competition cooking and meeting other chefs – not to mention “eating (her) way around the city,” which will be a foodie haven during the championships.

To learn more about hospitality majors at Pennsylvania College of Technology, 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.