Clarkesville, GA – North Georgia Technical College (NGTC) Culinary Arts student Hannah Nelson of Blue Ridge, Ga., recently won first place in Restaurant Service during the 2022 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC) held in Atlanta. Nelson advanced to nationals after winning gold at the Georgia SkillsUSA conference in February 2022.
Born and raised in the mountains of Northeast Georgia, Hannah had a desire to help others by pursuing a career in the medical field. Unfortunately, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought those dreams to a grinding halt as families sheltered in place and educational opportunities, particularly those in the medical field, were heavily impacted.
Hannah chose to spend much of her time at home exploring and pursuing her favorite hobby – cooking. However, as she began to cook for her family regularly, she discovered that cooking was much more of a passion than a hobby. Ultimately, this discovery led Hannah to enroll in the Culinary Arts program at NGTC where she was given the opportunity to compete in SkillsUSA.
“SkillsUSA is one of the biggest opportunities technical college students can take advantage of,” said Nelson. “It may be difficult to put yourself out there at first, but the leadership opportunities and friendships are worth the risk.”
The Restaurant Service competition focused on skills required in the front of the house in a fine dining establishment. Contestants were tested on sanitation, table set-up, napkin folding, understanding of the steps of service, and overall presentation. Additionally, post-secondary contestants were required to create a mocktail for judging. Hannah was confident in her performance but knew the competition was fierce.
“I was truly speechless when they called my name,” said Nelson. “I didn’t think I heard them correctly. I was overwhelmed with a rush of emotions – joy, excitement, shock – and I immediately started crying.”
In addition to a gold medal, Hannah was awarded several pieces of culinary equipment and a full scholarship to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. She will complete her training at NGTC in fall 2022 and will then attend the culinary institute for an additional two years of training.
NGTC Currahee Campus Director/Culinary Arts Instructor Alex Bladowski and Currahee Campus Department Chair/Culinary Arts Instructor Chris Bladowski served as Hannah’s faculty advisors. Hannah is very grateful for the support she has received from them.
“I would like to say a huge thank you to Chef Alex and Chef Chris for their support and mentorship and for pushing me to compete in SkillsUSA,” said Nelson. “I am so thankful I chose to pursue a career in culinary arts, and I couldn’t have made it this far without them.”
“Chef Alex and I are both extremely excited and proud of Hannah,” said NGTC Currahee Campus Director/Culinary Arts Instructor Chris Bladowski. “With all the hard work she put in and with fellow students helping her train for the competition, it really is a great achievement for Ms. Nelson.”
“We are extremely proud of Hannah for achieving such an incredible milestone in her culinary arts career,” said NGTC Vice President of Academic Affairs Mindy Glander. “Her success is a testament to the hard work and dedication of both Hannah and the faculty members who have helped her along the way. We wish Hannah the best of luck as she continues her education at the Culinary Institute of America and look forward to witnessing her succeed in the future.”
“On behalf of North Georgia Technical College, we are very proud of Ms. Nelson and commend her on this outstanding achievement,” said NGTC President John Wilkinson. “We would also like to congratulate Hannah’s instructors and faculty advisors. Hannah’s success highlights their commitment to quality education and helping their students succeed. We know Hannah will do great things in the future.”
Photography student Jarrod Coffey of Martinez, Ga., also competed in the Photography competition and represented NGTC at the national SkillsUSA conference. NGTC Photography Program Director/Instructor Jim Loring and Photography Instructor Melissa Henderson served as Coffey’s faculty advisors.
SkillsUSA is a career and technical student organization that develops citizenship, technical, leadership, and teamwork skills essential for students who are preparing for the workforce and further education. For more information regarding SkillsUSA or other programs at NGTC, visit northgatech.edu or call 706-754-7700.