Main Content Start

IRSC Students Paired With High School Students in Culinary Cook-Off

IRSC Students Paired With High School Students in Culinary Cook-Off

October 27, 2022 Jon Pine

FORT PIERCE—Five students in Indian River State College’s (IRSC) Culinary Management program teamed up with culinary students from five area high schools on Tuesday, October 25, for the Second Annual Sunshine Kitchen Culinary Cook-Off Competition.

2022 Culinary Cook-Off Winners

The winners of the Culinary Cook-Off were Fort Pierce Westwood High School student Donavan Derrico, left, and Indian River State College student Jay Schemo, right.

The five teams demonstrated their culinary knowledge, skills and creative abilities in sanitation, communication, planning and time management by creating an entrée from stock items—plus a few mystery items—to produce three identical complete plates with a protein, sauce, potato and vegetable.  Contestants had to use at least two cooking techniques in a six-minute period.

The results were evaluated by three judges based on harmony of flavors, texture, temperature, color and shape. The judges were Dr. Heather Belmont, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at IRSC; chef Mike Fedre of Sunshine Kitchen client True Roots Catering; and Gaetano D’Anna, Restaurant Manager at Bonefish Sports Grille in Port St. Lucie. The judges provided each team with a critique of the dishes they presented. Students from the county’s middle schools provided desserts and refreshments for the competition.

The winning team was IRSC student Jay Schemo of Vero Beach and Donavan Derrico of Fort Pierce, a student at Fort Pierce Westwood High School. They each received a $1,500 scholarship from St. Lucie County.

“To highlight the hospitality industry through collaborative events with middle school, high school, and college students is what building the pipeline of workforce education is all about,” said Deborah Midkiff, Department Chair and Instructor of Culinary and Hospitality at IRSC. “I am super proud of our talented students and their enthusiasm to move out of their comfort zone for this competition.”

The other competitors included Dorian Green of Port St. Lucie and a student at Centennial High School, who teamed with IRSC student Karina Sanchez of Port St. Lucie; Bailey Lobrutto of Fort Pierce and a student at Port St. Lucie High School, who teamed with IRSC student Blanca Compton of Port St. Lucie; Alessandra Mejia of Port St. Lucie and a student at Treasure Coast High School, who teamed with IRSC student Jimmy Mikovsky of Fort Pierce; and Daniel Medina of Port St. Lucie and a student at Fort Pierce Central High School, who teamed with IRSC student Brianna Butler-Brown of Stuart.

“As a former event competition judge for SKILLS USA, I find it’s events like this where the magic of our industry comes together to ignite the spark in our students which can be fueled by the competition and excitement that comes from our industry partners,” said Suzanne Bagnera, Director of IRSC’s Hospitality Institute.

Indian River State College has one of the most affordable and best culinary schools in Florida, offering an Associate of Science Degree in Culinary Management. For more information visit or contact Deborah Midkiff at 772-226-2698 or by email at

The Sunshine Kitchen, located at 7550 Pruitt Research Center Road in Fort Pierce, is a 10,000-square-foot state-of-the-art food incubator where chefs, caterers, food truck operators and other food service organizations can hone their culinary skills. The Kitchen is owned and managed by St. Lucie County and partners with IRSC and the St. Lucie County Extension/University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to provide training and classes. For more information, contact Regina McCants at 772-467-3107 or by email at

New version available REFRESH  DISMISS