Every year, students marvel as ACAHA juniors and seniors wheel in extravagant cakes into the upper cafeteria. These cakes, prepared for weeks by the entire ACAHA, aren’t just any cakes; they are made for BCA’s annual Chocolate Competition, a years-long school tradition in which ACAHA students create a unique chocolate cake based on a theme of their choice. On the day of the event, judges, ranging from industry professionals to members of the Board of Education, come to taste the students’ final creations and recognize them for their accomplishments.
This year, on March 22, the Bergen County Academies held its twenty-first annual Chocolate Competition. Since January, 8 groups of juniors and 9 groups of seniors began planning their cake designs to then bring them to life. During this time, ACAHA students were paired up with AEDT students, in which their teamwork and collaboration were key to the development of the final pieces. After months of hard work, student awards were given in the following categories: Best in Taste, Best Collaborative Engineering Project, Extraordinary Effort, and the top three cakes of each grade. The 2019 Chocolate Competition winners included:
First Place Winner: Olivia Kim and Maya Rutkowski (“A Little Party Never Killed Nobody”)
Second Place Winner: Anna Shin and Madelyn Kwak (“A Taste of Hunny”)
Third Place Winner: Christine Choi and Lauren Fisher (“Be Our Guest”)
First Place Winner: April Yoo and Erica Hwang (“Down the Rabbit Hole”)
Second Place Winner: Abigail Kaminsky and Jordan Gutierrez (“Muggle-Made”)
Third Place Winner: Rachel Holliday and Hannah Schwartz (“Anyone Can Bake”)
Best in Taste: Jackie Chen and Irene Hwang (“Remember Me”)
Best Collaborative Engineering Project: Mitchell Michaliszyn (“Chocolate Park”) & Ashleigh Chang and Suzanne O’Brien (“Honor”)
Extraordinary Effort: Sam Kwon and Ethan Shan (“Bananonina!”)
Although only the ACAHA juniors and seniors competed in the event, the effort of the entire academy was necessary to make it possible. While the upperclassmen worked on their cakes, ACAHA freshmen and sophomores volunteered their time to help in the grill. With pipes, poles, and batteries in their hands, the AEDT juniors periodically visited their groups to assemble the cakes. The inter-academy collaboration between AEDT and ACAHA students as well as the inter-grade collaboration within the culinary academy is what truly brought the event (and the cakes!) together.
Though they were not directly involved with the cakes, Mr. Lang and the AVPA/V students played crucial roles in publicizing the event. Even a few days prior to the event, Mr. Lang and his students snapped pictures amidst the flurry of ACAHA students running around the grill, adding last-minute preparations to their cakes. All of these pictures were added to the official Chocolate Competition book, which featured the sponsors, last year’s winners, and profiles of the judges. Some AVPA/V students had a more involved role in the process, making artwork out of fondant, frosting, and other edibles. Their work did not stop there; they attended the Chocolate Competition to take the official BCA video of the event. In the midst of the pots, pans, and of course, chocolate, the AVPA/V students certainly play important roles in the success of the event.
April Yoo, junior first place winner, said, “Chocolate Competition 2019 was truly a learning experience. [My partner and I] definitely learned a lot about how to plan out our cake as well as knowing the extent of our limitations. It did take a lot of time to plan out the design and logistics of our cake with our AEDT engineer and our AVPA/V friend, but it all worked out in the end. I’m excited to see what Chocolate Competition 2020 will bring!”
Chef B and Chef J, who had spent countless hours guiding ACAHA students and organizing Chocolate Competition, can’t help but feel extremely proud of all their students. Chef J said, “the best part of the process is the sense of accomplishment the students feel from seeing their vision take shape and come to life.” Not only do ACAHA students polish their baking skills through Chocolate Competition, but they also learn how to better their interpersonal and collaborative skills. Chef B added, “Time management, teamwork, and problem solving are essential to the success of this project.” Chef J agreed, saying, “It’s certainly about organization, teamwork, and of course, presentation…not just on the beautiful cake and theme, but on their concept and inspiration. Being able to convey their passion to the judges is an important piece to the puzzle and our students excel in this area.”
To the sophomores who will be participating in their first Chocolate Competition next year, Chef B suggests, “Do research online, watch videos, and practice new skills. Remember, bigger is not always better.” Chef J says, “It’s simple: have a plan, be dedicated to executing your project, and work clean!” Most importantly, don’t be too nervous, and remember to enjoy the journey.
Congratulations to all the participants of Chocolate Competition 2019, and we look forward to seeing what Chocolate Competition 2020 brings!