Summer Camp Students Really Cook

From left: Chris Nicolelis, Mira Fish, Tomer Zilkha, Sophia Lukac and Ronda Drakeford.

PARAMUS, N.J. – This summer, eight Bergen County high school students proved they can take the heat – in the kitchen.

As part of Bergen Community College’s “Kids and Teens” summer program, which offers enrichment courses through the institution’s Division of Continuing Education, Corporate and Public Sector Training, eight teenagers explored the culinary craft during “HACKed” (Hungry Aspiring Chefs in the Kitchen), a two-week course.

The program culminated with a July 28 reality-show-style cooking competition where teams of students presented appetizers, entrees and desserts to a panel of judges, who provided feedback and scored entries. By the slimmest of margins (a fraction of a point), the judges – Bergen hotel/restaurant/hospitality program faculty Ronda Drakeford, Chris Nicolelis and Tomer Zilkha – awarded Mira Fish, of Glen Rock, and Sophia Lukac, of Oradell, first prize. The pair not only showed their chops as chefs – painstakingly preparing a peach-mango sorbet without the benefit of an ice cream maker – but as teammates: a third member could not participate in the competition due to vacation, leaving them down a set of hands.

Nonetheless, the dynamic duo persevered and took home the grand prize, which included gift certificates to Pâtisserie Florentine, Biagio’s and the Bergen bookstore, among tools of the trade such as a Bergen-branded chef coat and measuring spoons.

Instructors Derrick Gagner and Joan Nicolai led the HACKed course.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (, a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls 15,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

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