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2024 AHF National Culinary Competition

We are thrilled to announce the five finalist teams selected for AHF’s Culinary Competition! These teams, each comprising two members from self-operated facilities across the country, will compete for Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals, as well as the title of National Healthcare Foodservice Culinary Champion.

The competition will take place during our National Conference in San Antonio, Texas, from August 23-25, 2024.

This career-transforming opportunity involves a 75-minute timed competition where teams will use a selection of ingredients from AHF’s curated Market Baskets.

These five finalist teams were chosen through a rigorous, blinded selection process from a large pool of applicants. They have already accomplished so much by being selected as finalists!

Get ready for the excitement by watching the recording of our 2023 Culinary Competition to understand how the competition works and to see what our finalists will experience.

2024 Finalists

Adams Health Network

Female chef headshot
FAITH WERLING
LEAD COOK

I always loved cooking for family and friends. I started working in food service at Kroger this made me realize I wanted to take my education further. I attended Ivy Tech community college in Fort Wayne Indiana. I Graduated in 2020 with an Associate’s degree of Applied Science in hospitality management. After graduation I worked for 4 years cooking at a fine dining restaurant cooking and fine-tuning my love of menu development, recipe testing, and food preparation. 

This year is my first year working food service in healthcare. I love the challenge of keeping food within the proper nutrition for all the many different diets. One of my favorite things about working in food service is getting to make food that makes people happy and feel better. I believe nutritious food plays an important role in patient well-being.

 
Michael Secaur, cdm, cfpp
Culinary Education Coordinator

My name is Michael Secaur, and I am a Certified Dietary Manager (CDM) and Certified Food Protection Professional (CFPP), currently serving as a Culinary Educator at Adams Health Network in Decatur, Indiana. My journey in the culinary world spans several decades, encompassing experiences in fine dining and healthcare food service management.

My journey began with Education in Culinary Arts from Ivy Tech College, Indianapolis, in 1992. My career began as a professional Chef, spending 13 years in the States of Indiana, Florida and Georgia working in high-end settings, including hotels, gourmet restaurants, and private city clubs, developing a deep understanding of fine dining and culinary excellence. My drive and inspiration comes from working under 2 Master Chefs that demanded excellence and culinary perfection.

After more than a decade in the commercial culinary world, I transitioned into the healthcare sector, driven by a desire to improve people’s health through nutrition. Over the next 20 years, I served as a Food Service Manager in long-term care facilities and hospitals. This phase expanded my knowledge of nutrition and diets, emphasizing the importance of dietary management in healthcare settings. I am inspired by the work of ANFP and AHF as they have given the Healthcare industry the continuing education and tools to grow. My broad experience and commitment to excellence in food service and nutrition continue to positively impact the community I serve. Inspired by industry leaders and health advocates, I strive to combine culinary artistry with nutritional science to enhance the well-being of those around me.

Bethany Children’s Health Center

Trina Burks
Director of Nutrition 

After leaving the Air Force as a cook, I thought about future career options and the people I had worked with for many years. The people I had the opportunity to work with and for over the years impacted my choice to stay in the food service industry. The people in this industry are inspiring because we all can work together towards excellence, getting better each day.  I decided to go to Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh, PA and work in fine dining restaurants and hotels.  Marcelo Miranda brought me to Integris Health as a Lead where I continued to grow and learn about hospital food services.  I served in many managerial roles within the food service at Integris  Health.  After many years at Integris, I had the opportunity to grow with Bethany Children’s Health Center.  At Bethany Children’s, we are all honored to serve our patients and families with healthy nutritious foods that meet their specific needs.

Markayla Vickery
Lead 

Markayla Vickery is a hard-working quick learner that has helped many food service organizations throughout her career.  Markayla started out at Braum’s Ice Cream at 16 working after school and weekends.  She was quickly promoted to Shift Supervisor after a year.  After two years at Braum’s Markayla accepted a position with McDonald’s as the Assistant Manager.  At 19 Markayla managed her own store in Oklahoma City, OK.  Continuing to grow and learn, Markayla accepted an assistant manager position with Applebee’s with a desire to have a more work life balance.  Markayla continued to grow and then accepted the opportunity to work at Bethany Children’s Health Center as Lead in the Nutrition department.  Markayla loves teaching and sharing her knowledge with other team members and new employees.  Markayla continues to work hard and help others grow each day in all areas of nutrition.  Markayla brings other team members along the journey of hard work and dedication with laughter and camaraderie.  

Endeavor Health

Wes Lieberher
Executive Chef, South Region

Chef Wes Lieberher forged his skills in popular kitchens in Philadelphia in the early 2000’s, climbing the ranks until he became executive chef of French Bistro, Vintage. In 2010, he moved to Los Angeles to further pursue his career as a chef. Shortly after arriving in LA, Chef Wes opened Beer Belly, a craft beer & comfort food restaurant. As Executive Chef he and his team turned Beer Belly into one of the most popular comfort food eateries in the history of the city.

Since Beer Belly closed in 2018, Chef Wes has opened multiple restaurants & concepts in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Chicago, & Berlin, Germany as an executive chef and culinary consultant.

Chef Wes has been featured on Food Network multiple times appearing on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives and competition shows Guys Grocery Games and Super Chef Grudge Match. He has also been featured on the Travel Channel’s Food Paradise and ABC’s The Taste with Anthony Bourdain.

Chef Wes joined forces with Top Ranked Health System, Endeavor Health, in 2021 to focus on creating a new culinary experience for patients and customers in the area. Chef Wes has found a new sense of passion for health and patient care and is determined to change the culinary boundaries of the healthcare industry.

Mynor Garcia
Sous Chef, Edward Hospital 

Mynor’s journey in culinary arts began in 2009 when he attended The Illinois institute of Art-Chicago. After three years of working full time in shipping and receiving while attending school part time, Mynor finally graduated in 2012. 

Shortly after graduating Mynor started at Durty Nellie’s as a prep cook. Proving his hard work and dedication to the team, he was promoted to line cook where he executed meal orders efficiently. After working in restaurants for several years, Mynor continued to pursue his career in culinary arts and transitioned to senior care. Throughout Mynor’s journey in senior care, he was able to start as a Sous Chef at Symphony of Hanover Park before moving on to a new opportunity at Endeavor Health.

Mynor is now in a leading role as Sous Chef/Supervisor at Endeavor Health Edward Hospital where he consistently executes catering events, retail management, ordering, and care for patients. Mynor leads a team of twenty cooks as well as inventory staff that serve over 1400 meals per day.

Geisinger Health System

Brian Dixson, MBA
Regional Manager

I graduated with a BS Degree in Culinary Arts Technology from the Pennsylvania College of Technology in 2005. This opened the door to work in both upscale and casual dining kitchens throughout central Pennsylvania. I transitioned into the healthcare foodservice industry after graduation and never looked back. I have spent the last 19 years in healthcare foodservice, from preparing daily meals for our patients, employee appreciation meals, to catering events for our executive administration team. I completed my MBA from Bloomsburg University in 2012. Currently, as a regional manager with Geisinger, I support four community hospitals throughout central/north-central Pennsylvania. Alongside site leadership, assisting in implementation and monitoring of policies and procedures. Removing barriers so that our foodservice teams have the proper tools, training, and resources available, so that they can provide the best possible care for our patients, visitors and Geisinger family.

Brianne George 
Foodservice Supervisor
Geisinger Medical Center Muncy

My love and passion for food started in my grandmother’s kitchen. Her cooking told a story of togetherness and family, you can only find sharing a meal with your loved ones. She inspired me to go to culinary school. I moved to Atlanta and enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu. After graduation I worked at several popular restaurants in Atlanta. Petite Auberge, The Red Snapper, and Bazati. My culinary journey has now taken me back to Pennsylvania where I grew up. I’m 3 years into my new career as a Foodservice Supervisor at Geisinger Medical Center Muncy. I have an extraordinary team there who love cooking for the patients and the visitors in our café.

INTEGRIS Health

Joshua Sabedra
Food Services- Retail Manager
INTEGRIS Health – Baptist Medical Center

Joshua started his foodservice career when he was 14 in the front of house of a modest tex-mex restaurant in his hometown. After graduating high school, he decided he would stay in the service industry due to his passion for serving others. He pursued an education in culinary arts at his local culinary school and graduated near the top of his class. 

With over two decades of culinary experience, Joshua has honed his skills in the vibrant world of restaurants. Ranging from quick serve scratch diners to exclusive country clubs and fine dining establishments. His journey took an unexpected turn when he was contacted by a former colleague who invited him to join the culinary team at Integris Health.  Prior to this, Joshua had never worked within a healthcare system.

Joshua’s culinary background reflects a passion for flavors, textures, and presentation. From bustling, high-volume kitchens to large banquet halls, he brings his love of servitude to every dish. His adaptability and commitment to excellence shine through, making him an invaluable asset in any culinary setting.

As Joshua Sabedra steps into this new chapter, he carries with him the rich tapestry of his culinary adventures—a fusion of tradition, innovation, and unwavering dedication. 

DeCleasha Martin, BS, CDM, CFPP
Food Services – Operations Manager
Integris Health – Baptist Medical Center

As a trained Chef turned Food Service Manager, DeCleasha brings an international flair and expertise to the healthcare culinary industry. With a passion for creative and innovative cuisine, DeCleasha has spent many years honing her skills in the culinary profession.

DeCleasha began her career as a Caterer throughout Oklahoma, where she quickly rose through the ranks due to her dedication and hard work. Her culinary skills and creativity were further developed during her time studying abroad in Scotland and Finland, where she learned to master the art of fusion cooking.

After earning multiple degrees from Oklahoma State University and Turku AMK she later transitioned to a Food Service Operations Manager role. Applying her culinary expertise to oversee the day-to-day operations of several high-profile hospitals in the hospitality industry. This role requires her to not only maintain the quality of her dining services, but also to ensure efficient and cost-effective operations for the hospital. Under her leadership, Food Services has gained a large following of dedicated customers.

Beyond her work at INTEGRIS Health, DeCleasha is an active member of the culinary community, seeking out new culinary trends, ingredients, and techniques to incorporate into her cooking. Her passion for food is contagious, and she is always eager to share her knowledge and expertise with others.

In her free time, DeCleasha can be found exploring local farmers’ markets, experimenting with new recipes, and hosting dinner parties for family and friends. Her love for cooking is truly a part of who she is, and she is constantly seeking new ways to express her creativity and passion through the culinary arts.

Judge’s Panel

Following the competition, finalists are invited to a private critique with our panel of celebrated expert judges. This unique educational experience offers invaluable feedback from highly regarded chefs, helping competitors refine their craft. Renowned for their culinary expertise and integrity, our judges ensure the highest standards, guiding participants to reach new heights in their culinary journey.

2024 Judges

CHEF Jared Hunter

Executive Chef

MD Anderson Cancer Center

 
2023 AHF Gold Medalist

 

CHEF JASMIN
PARKS-PAPADOPOULOS

Chief Growth Officer

CHOW:
Culinary Hospitality Outreach & Wellness

 

CHEF MATTHEW WARD

Executive Chef
of Residential Dining

University of North Texas
Dining Services

 

Market Baskets

All applicants were required to select at least one ingredient from Basket A along with at least two ingredients from Basket B. The finalists chosen stood out for their exceptional creativity and skill in utilizing these ingredients, securing their spot as finalist for their innovative dishes.

Market Basket A

  • Catfish
  • Venison
  • Chicken, leg quarters
  • Tofu

    Mystery Ingredient
    To Be Announced at Conference

Market Basket B

  • Peaches
  • Blackberries 
  • Figs (fresh or dried)
  • Cauliflower
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Cowpeas 
  • Wheat Berries 
  • Chocolate, dark
  • Hot Peppers (chile pequin or serrano)
  • Honey

Get Inspired. Get Excited. Get registered!