LEWISTON — In what used to be a “members only” affair, the American Culinary Federation concluded its second large-scale awards banquet at the Ramada Convention Center on Tuesday night.

According to ACF chapter President Dan Caron, “The American Culinary Federation is growing in the Lewiston-Auburn area. As a group we meet monthly and share experiences, knowledge and raise scholarship money for our future chefs, bakers and other food service workers.”

Caron is chef at The Green Ladle, a Lewiston Regional Technical Center Program focusing on the culinary arts. Students come from high schools in Lewiston, Auburn, Lisbon, Wales, Poland and Turner.

The ACF and supporting restaurants organize many fundraisers and community events such as the Chili and Chowder Challenge for Longley Elementary School, the Dempsey Challenge food tent and the Fish Bones golf tournament, Caron said.

“The Chef of the Year banquet is a great event to honor our chefs, foods service directors, bakers and young culinarians, he said. “We will also be awarding over $20,000 in scholarships. We have over 20 restaurants involved, serving their best entree or dessert.”

Twenty restaurants volunteered their time and served food for free to about 200 people, Caron said.

“I ask these restaurants at least five times a year to such events and they’re always there for us,” he said.

The organization is really about the scholarships, “for young students and community involvement and the chefs — we all know each other because of the ACF.”

He said it was also good for his Green Ladle students, getting to “rub elbows” with local restaurateurs. “It’s exciting; it really is.”

Chef of the Year Randy Smith said he was a little shocked to regain the title he last held 13 years ago. Smith, the current vice president and past president of the ACF, currently runs Pinky D’s food truck.

Speaking of the banquet, Smith said, “It gets better every year — we get better at what we do. When (Smith and Caron) took over, we wanted it to be visible to the public.”

Smith said for the students attending, they are getting into a great adventure. After all, Smith said, a chicken is a chicken and a steak is a steak and if you learn the basics of cooking, you can take that trade anywhere in the world.

Junior Chef of the Year, Jessica Henson of Lewiston, graduated from the Green Ladle and is  pastry chef at Fuel on Lisbon Street in Lewiston. Even as a recent grad, Henson has creative control, designing desserts and adding menu items.

Henson said she hopes to attend the Culinary Institute of America next year, maintaining her focus in the pastry field.

She credits her time at the Green Ladle with providing her with real-world experiences rather than dry book work. She said Caron would routinely provide real-world scenarios such as greeting students with unexpected challenges.

Pastry Chef of the Year Brianne Doyle is the pastry chef instructor at the Green Ladle, where she has been teaching for almost three years. She said she was both shocked and honored to be chosen.

Doyle said the season was wrapping up at the Green Ladle and she was sad to see the seniors she has worked with leave. “It’s good to see them succeed, but it’s sad to see them go.”

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ACF Hospitality Person of the Year, Paul Deschenes

Chef of the Year, Randall M. Smith

Pastry Chef of the Year, Brianne E. Doyle

Food Service Director of the Yea,r David J. Roberts

Jr. Chef of the Year, Jessica Henson

Kevin A Stetson Scholarship winners:

1. Edith Guzman, $1,500

2. Jessica Henson, $1,500

3. Victoria Carr, $1,500

4. Amanda Fields, $1,500

Roger Ouellette Scholarship winners:

1. Brianna Bennett $1,000

2. Cameron Bedard $2,000

3. Savannah Barnes $1,000

Fishbones Hospitality Scholarship winners:

1. Alexandria Wilson, $2,000

2. Sarah Carpenter, $2,000

3. Justin Liudvinaitis, $300

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