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2024 - ECC culinary arts students participate in annual Fisher Nuts scholarship recipe contest

Tags: Accomplishment | Events
Published 04/24/2024
ECC culinary student Stephanie Kessel, first-place winner of the annual Fisher Nuts scholarship recipe contest with her Orange Walnut Crème Brûlée recipe.

ECC culinary student Stephanie Kessel, first-place winner of the annual Fisher Nuts scholarship recipe contest with her Orange Walnut Crème Brûlée recipe.

Eight Elgin Community College culinary students competed for scholarship prizes in the annual Fisher Nuts Recipe Competition on Wednesday, April 17, at the college’s Spartan Terrace Restaurant.

This is the thirteenth year the college has partnered with Fisher Nuts, part of the Elgin-based John B. Sanfilippo and Son, Inc., to offer students additional opportunities to succeed in their culinary careers.

“The Fisher Nut Recipe contest is a chance for students to showcase their talents and creativity,” said Jennifer Loiacano, director of ECC’s Spartan Terrace Restaurant. “It’s an exciting time as students work to develop an original recipe, then perfect it for the competition. We appreciate the support of John B. Sanfilippo & Son and the opportunity to provide for the students.”

More than 30 ECC culinary and pastry arts students entered the contest by developing a recipe using products donated by Fisher Nuts. The company’s research and development team selects the top eight entries for the final competition. Students prepare their dishes for presentation to the attendees of the company’s private in-person evening event; each guest gets to vote for their favorite dish of the evening.

The contest is open to all ECC culinary and pastry arts students. The finalists select a fellow student to serve as their sous chef for the evening.

ECC culinary student Stephanie Kessel won first place with her Orange Walnut Crème Brûlée recipe. Kessel’s recipe was inspired by her battle with Crohn’s Disease; she has relied on using a lot of nut products due to a restrictive diet, including Fisher Nuts, in her baking and cooking. 

“I’m still in awe over winning first place,” said Kessel. “It was already so exciting being chosen as one of the final eight, but to actually get first place still gives me goosebumps. I have a lot of passion for what I do in the kitchen, and I am so happy to have been able to showcase that to others and be rewarded for it.”

 Winners of a $1,000 scholarship:

  • First Place: Stephanie Kessel, of Steward – Orange Walnut Crème Brûlée
  • Second Place: Anthony Vyleta, of Elgin – Asian Chicken Skewers with Pistachio Sauce and Almond Flour Naan (GF)
  • Third Place: Tanya M. Teeter, of Carpentersville – Sweet and Spicy Herbed Cocktail Nuts
  • Fourth Place: Andrea Chvatal-Hedstrom, of Carpentersville – Pistachio Cranberry No-Bake Brownies

Winners of a $250 scholarship:

  • Bryan Guido, of South Elgin – Mediterranean Octopus Over Roasted Red Pepper and Smoked Pistachio Hazelnut Romesco
  • Mariana Huerta, of Carpentersville – Three-Leches Pasel de Pistachios y Crema Batida de Almendras
  • Dominic Mellace, of Bartlett – Poached Swordfish with Thai Chili Peanut Sauce
  • Evan Swartz, of Elgin – Mole Manchamantel

For additional information about culinary events at ECC, call 847-214-7382 or visit All media and interview requests can be directed to Andrea Watson, director of communications, at