Meet the ACF’s 2019 Student Chef of the Year Competitors


We’re counting down the weeks until ACF National Convention: Orlando with an in-depth introduction to each of our award candidates. Next up: our regional student chef champs! Visit to see the full schedule.

Not registered yet? Call us at (800) 624-9458 to speak with an events team member now. Onsite registration will also be available.

If you can’t make it this year, we’ll have coverage of all the competitions streaming live on Facebook, and don’t forget to register for Conference On-Demand to see recorded sessions of all our Main Stage speakers!

Military: LCPL Jonathan Sanchez

SCOY Photo – Sanchez

Lance Corporal (LCpl) Jonathan Sanchez enlisted into the United States Marine Corps in January 2018 through the delay entry program. In February 2018, he entered Recruit Training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.

Upon completion of recruit training in May 2018, Private First Class (PFC) Sanchez received orders to Marine Combat Training at Camp Gaiger, NC. After Marine Combat Training, PFC Sanchez received orders to Fort Lee Virginia for Military Occupational Specialty training as a Food Service Specialist. He completed that in October 2018, so PFC Sanchez was assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 372 Airfield Company, aboard Marine Air Ground Combat Center Camp Pendlenton, Ca.

In October 2018 PFC Sanchez was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal (LCpl). January 2018 LCpl Sanchez received Temporary Additional Duty (TAD) orders to Fort Lee, VA to participate as student member of the Marine Corp Culinary Team. May 2018 LCpl Sanchez received Navy and Marine Corp Medal Achievement. April 2018 LCpl Sanchez received TAD orders to 29 Palms, CA to support 373 in training. March 2018 LCpl Sanchez received TAD orders to Fort Lee, VA to train for ACF National competitions.

LCPL Sanchez’s personal decorations include: Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and Certificate of Commendation.

Central: Hitomi Tomobe


The following is an essay written by Chef Tomobe about participating in this competition.

My decision to become a cook was heavily influenced by my parents. Growing up, I was blessed with having both a home cook and a professional cook as parents. My mother grew up cooking traditional Japanese food at a young age, while my father became a sushi chef who also enjoys exploring different types of cooking at home.

Although I grew up enjoying the cooking of both parents, one was objectively better. My father’s cooking was always purposeful and well-constructed. When I get to see him cook at home, he is very well organized and works quickly. Watching a person cook shows a lot of what they are as a person. The things that they decide to put on a plate is a clear reflection of what intentions they decide to present to a person.

Watching him cook at home, I got to see a cook who always had purpose in each of his steps and was very thoughtful in how he put it together. These virtuous traits that were evident in him as a cook became traits that I also hoped to gain as he became my role model, both as a cook and as a person.

I accepted the nomination because I was greatly humbled by the fact that my teachers who have seen me both fail and achieve, chose me to represent our school. I was both terrified and excited about the chance to compete again. Competing in a solo competition was one thing, but to do so while representing your bosses, your classmates and teachers was a weight that I was not sure I was prepared to carry.

When I started practicing, I remember having zero confidence in myself. I started questioning why this was placed on myself and why I had accepted in the first place. But during the last couple of practices, I started to think about how much time and energy my coaches, who were both instructors and bosses, had invested in me. I couldn’t let down these Chefs who had given of themselves to nurture me to become a better cook. Even if I didn’t believe in myself, I believed in their skill in teaching and critiquing.

If there is anything I would like to present to a person through a plate, it would be thoughtfulness. To plate food that was made with care for their enjoyment like my father would. As I further my skills and expand my palate, I hope I become capable of making food that also sparks their interest in food.

Within the next three years, I will graduate Culinary Studies Institute of Oakland Community College with an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts, as well as a Certificate in Baking and Pastry Arts. I hope that by then, I will find the confidence to test myself further by working in places that constantly challenge me to get faster, more skillful and more knowledgeable. Although I currently work in a club, I also hope that I will make my way back into the restaurant side of cooking because I miss that flow and volume.

After graduating Oakland Community College, I am also considering attending The French Pastry School in Chicago, but I am not sure if I would choose to lean more towards the savory side of food by then.

Thank you for this opportunity to represent both my school and Chefs who have nurtured me to this point. I will work hard to represent my coaches and my chapter well.

Southeast: Devin Agosto

Agosto, Devin

Chef Agosto is a member of the ACF Southwestern Virginia Chapter and will represent the Southeast at ACF nationals. His full biography was not available at press time.

West: Emma Delahunty


The following is a letter of recommendation written by Todd Leonard, CEC, in support of Chef Delahunty.

Emma has been an outstanding student and is in every aspect worthy and fitting for Student Chef of the year. Emma is professional, honest and very hard working. She loves to cook and be in the kitchen. She thrives off of stress and brigade pressure that the kitchen offers her.

Emma is always making things happen, going the extra mile and doing extra things above and beyond the call of duty. She acts as though each minute and moment of every situation of every day is her last. She eats, sleeps and dreams food!

Emma wants to give back; she volunteers and helps with special events whenever there is opportunity. She currently works as a line cook in our café, she wants to help change lives and make a better community and world.

It is with great honor I recommend Emma as the Student Chef of the year representing Utah for the Western regional competition as well National Finals. Emma is an example of our past and future industry with respect to tradition and classic to modern and innovation. Emma will be ready and will represent the ACF professionally and raise the Bar of student competition. I am not just blowing smoke. She is the real deal!

Northeast: Daniel Hess, CC


The following is an essay written by Chef Hess about participating in this competition. The essay has been edited for length.

I choose the culinary profession because I enjoy nothing better than helping other people before helping myself. The culinary world is a fast moving industry that strives to make people enjoy what it is that chefs dedicate their entire lives perfecting.

Cooking is not for everybody, but that does not mean people should get discouraged if they cannot cook. What it means is student chefs like myself need to share our skills with other people, making them better cooks and us better mentors. Ever since I was little I always aspired to be just like Chef Emeril Lagasse. The way he cooked and his “BAM” personality made me want to do what he does someday. And someday I will be just like him, cooking for an audience, but just in a different aspect.

I followed my dreams of becoming just like Emeril and decided to go to culinary school after unfortunately not attending a vocational school during high school. What started as a rough freshman year turned into some of the best years of my life. I have been to Michelin star restaurants, met world famous chefs and most importantly made some of the most valuable connections with industry professionals. If it were not for my coach I would not be where I am today or who I am today.

I accepted the nomination because I have been working towards developing my skills in order to become a better chef and someday be nominated to compete. I have aided in the practices with past students who have competed for this award and feel I have what it takes to compete for this amazing honor. I take great pride in everything I do in life and I would love to represent my school in competing for the title of Student Chef of the Year. Being nominated shows me that my chefs have faith in me and know that I am capable of bringing home the title. They could have picked anyone who met the qualifications but instead they choose me.

My three-year plan is to graduate college and move into my own apartment all while working as the Banquet Chef at Westchester Hills Golf Club. During this time I can better my skills and finesse dishes that look amazing.

During my whole culinary school experience for the past three years one saying has stuck out to me. “Eating is a necessity, but cooking is an art.” It is one of my favorite quotes and reminds me everyday that what famous Chefs do takes lots of energy and practice and being named 2019 Student Chef of the Year will make me one step closer to reaching my dream.

Click here to see all of our coverage on ACF National Convention: Orlando.

JulAug2019NCR_coverTo read the full July/August 2019 issue of the National Culinary Reviewsubscribe to the print version today (now with included digital access). If you’re already a subscriber, click here to sign in and start reading.