By Jana Carver
The weather was beautiful at Memorial Park in Blowing Rock, N.C. on January 30. Temperatures reached the 50’s, and the sun was shining. Yet, for GTCC culinary instructor Alan Romano and culinary students Sarah Meyer and Lamonte Bell, these weather conditions were not ideal.
Chef Alan Romano (top left) competed with culinary students Sarah Meyer (top right) and Lamonte Bell (bottom) in the Southeast Regional Invitational Collegiate Ice Carving Competition in Blowing Rock, N.C. on Jan. 30, 2016.
The team of three was competing for the first time in the Southeast Regional Invitational Collegiate Ice Carving Competition during Blowing Rock WinterFest. And despite the challenging and atypical warm January weather, the team took first place.
While Romano has been carving ice since the ‘80s and is no stranger to competition, this was his first time competing with his students. For students Meyer and Bell, competing was a first; neither had worked with ice prior to their time at GTCC.
Meyer, 34, began her GTCC journey in 2013. Her interest in sculpting began when she took Chef Romano’s Culinary 270 class, which teaches preparation techniques for serving cold food. Romano incorporated sculpting as part of the curriculum.
Meyer said she ended up competing because she enjoyed taking Chef Romano’s class, “and then they needed another teammate, so I decided to take the chance,” she said.
The trio sculpted a mermaid riding a wave, and Meyer was in charge of sculpting the tail. She said the most difficult part of the sculpture was “trying to get her to stay together.” The warm day made time precious.
“The sun was definitely our enemy,” Meyer said with a laugh.
However, in the face of a stressful time limit, the team thrived. They were given six hours to complete the sculpture, but the sun changed the game.
“We did it in less than three,” Romano said with a note of pride.
That pride also rang out in Bell’s voice as he described the competition. Bell, 25, came to GTCC in 2013 to pursue a culinary arts degree. He admitted that he was nervous when they first started the sculpture.
“Practicing in the backyard is completely different from sculpting in front of people who have never seen ice sculpting before,” said Bell, who sculpted the wave of the ice sculpture.
What he enjoys most about sculpting is the reward at the end.
“Seeing the finished product and knowing I did that; we did that,” he said.
It also was a learning experience.
“You have to work fast, go in confident, and know you’re going to get done what you need to get done,” Bell said. “Be persistent and stick to your plan, whatever that might be.”
Full disclosure: Out of the six colleges that registered to compete, GTCC was the only school to show up for the competition, automatically winning first place. But they did not let this change their goal to do their best.
“We would have won anyway because of how difficult (the sculpture) was and the end result,” Romano said.
In May, Bell will graduate with a culinary arts degree, and Meyer will graduate with two degrees in culinary arts and hospitality management.
“Mark my words,” Romano said with pride, “they’ll be very successful.”
Feb. 26, 2016