Gwinnett Tech student wins big for pear recipe

LAWRENCEVILLE -- For her unique take on fruit and pasta, Jennifer Williams recently won a national grand prize.

A Gwinnett Technical College student in the culinary arts program, Williams took first place in the 2012 USA Pears Culinary Student Competition for her original recipe.

Her Pear and Prosciutto Ravioli with Pear Sauce impressed judges at Portland's Le Cordon Bleu, where the entry received the top honor last month along with a $1,000 scholarship prize.

Williams used four types of USA pear varieties, cheeses, prosciutto and fall-inspired spices in the ravioli stuffing and sauce. All entries were judged based on prominent use of fresh pears, originality, creativity, appearance, texture and taste. Contest rules stated that only United States-grown pears could be used in recipes.

Her peers and leaders at Gwinnett Tech said they are proud of Williams and the recipe she created.

"Jennifer is the type of student who takes in all opportunities and absorbs as much as possible--the type of student who'll be successful in life, not just in culinary circles," said Chef Kerri Crean, culinary arts program director at Gwinnett Tech. "She has shown that putting in 110 percent will actually pay off, this time in the form of that $1,000 scholarship."

Williams said she started testing and refining her unique recipe between fall and spring semesters at Gwinnett Tech.

As she decided on the direction she wanted to take, she began testing different flavor ideas. "I knew I wanted it to be sweet and savory," Williams said. "I brainstormed. I started jotting down ideas on a piece of paper...and I came up with the idea for this."

Williams said she tested the recipe on family members, who provided "positive feedback and some constructive criticism."

The recipe required a lot of preparation during the competition in Portland, which had a three-hour cap on prep time.

"I knew that cooking in the Le Cordon Bleu kitchen would be very different from my kitchen at home," Williams said. "Practicing with my instructors, Chef Crean and Chef Andrew Miller, I was able to prepare my recipe in GTC's professional kitchen, time my actions, analyze and then improve. Not knowing what equipment would be available to me during the contest, I experimented with multiple scenarios so I was fully prepared."

Added Williams, laughing: "I definitely learned a lot about pears."

The culinary arts program at Gwinnett Technical College offers a degree and diploma in culinary arts as well as a prep cook certificate.

For more information, visit www.gwinnetttech.edu.