Salsa Competition Update

October 4, 2018

Public Information Officer


The tasting element of the free St. Philip’s College Best Tasting Salsa Competition, a one-hour judged salsa specialty food contest for two-person teams of local high school student chefs is a salsa lover’s dream that takes place Oct. 10 at noon in Room 202 of the college’s Turbon Student Center at 1801 Martin Luther King Drive. In addition to revealing additional teams, a confirmed date, timeline and prize structure for the 2018 version of the increasingly popular event has been made public this week, with intensive preparation time occurring from 10:30-11:30 a.m. and table set up from 11:30-11:50 a.m. preceding the judging that begins at noon and public viewing and sampling that occurs as soon as the judging is complete. In the contest area, teams of chefs are judged on presentation, originality, creativity, salsa taste and salsa texture. The public is welcome to visit, taste, cast People’s Choice votes (before noon) and meet the chefs.

The 2018 teams come from 13 high schools: Roosevelt, Edison, Memorial, South San, East Central, Poteet, Madison, O’Conner, LaVernia, Southside, Alamo Heights, Samuel Clemens and Taft. The 26 competing chefs are high school seniors. The food is from a region where both family and commercial traditions of salsa making extend centuries deep, and new generations create the authentic salsas of the future during the contest. The college’s event is education oriented and features a mix of college and local chefs as judges. All salsas are entirely prepared in labs at the St. Philip’s College campus on competition day, and students must be in competitive condition to produce the excellence expected by judges, chef coaches and foodies.

Bill Barker leads the Taft High School Culinary Arts program. One of his 2018 alumni who was a competitor on Taft's record-setting 2017 team---Joel Commerford---is a current student within St. Philip's College's Tourism, Hospitality and Culinary Arts department.

"I take great pride in having Joel as one of my former students and now as a Taft High School Culinary Arts Alumnus," said Barker. "Joel was always one of my go-to students. He was an incredibly hard worker in the kitchen, and very creative. He was excited last year to participate in the salsa contest at St. Philip's College. He and his teammate worked hard to create an award-winning salsa. His excitement and pride in the results of the contest were contagious with his classmates. They seemed to have no fear when it came to food production and entry into other contest opportunities," said Barker.

In 2018, Brandies came in first at the Turbon, followed by crafty Taft---co-led by Commerford.

By placing twice in 2017---second and people’s choice---Commerford and defending 2016 and 2017 second place winner Taft established a record for most scholarship money awarded per student in 2017, “a cool $1,000 today,” college faculty member Chef Patrick Costello announced from the contest podium in 2017.

“One of the Taft student chefs was really interested in attending St. Philip’s College, so it really worked out in his favor. Future students, that’s what it was about,” Rocha said of Commerford in 2017. 

The faculty sponsor for one of the teams has two St. Philip’s College connections, Rocha explained.

William Thornton is the faculty sponsor of the Edison High School team. He is the son of St. Philip’s College Tourism, Hospitality and Culinary Arts department chair Chef Will Thornton, and he attended the college briefly, according to Rocha.

“He only took his basics, then transferred out to another college,” noted Rocha.

The ever-changing prize structure of the contest will see no scholarships awarded this year, Rocha and college institutional advancement authorities shared this week, but the event is for far more than monetary reward, she concluded.

For details on the contest, contact Rocha at 210-486–2318,

CAPTION: An archival image of the record-breaking Taft High School Culinary Arts program that earned both second place and people’s choice prizes in the 2017 St. Philip’s College Best Tasting Salsa Competition is a reminder that the free salsa tasting element of the 2018 contest takes place Oct. 10 at noon in Room 202 of the college’s Turbon Student Center at 1801 Martin Luther King Drive. (Archival SPC image)

About the St. Philip’s College Tourism, Hospitality and Culinary Arts department: The St. Philip’s College Tourism, Hospitality and Culinary Arts department provides five primary programs along with one full-time faculty member and multiple adjunct faculty members to work directly with students in each area. All five programs involve students in classroom-based learning experiences, as well as lab experience, and work-based learning during a practicum course. The culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, and restaurant management programs have been acknowledged with an Exemplary rating from the American Culinary Federation Foundation Accrediting Commission. St. Philip’s College is one of only 25 schools worldwide with the commission’s Exemplary status and is rated Exemplary by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The 110-year-old St. Philip’s College hospitality professions programs typically graduate 100 students annually, and expansion is expected this decade when the college opens its $30 million Tourism, Hospitality and Culinary Arts Center of Excellence building funded as part of a $450 million bond package approved by voters in May 2017 to both construct new Alamo College District facilities and renovate existing college buildings. Students graduating from the management programs: Hotel Management, Hospitality Management, and Restaurant Management are eligible to receive Certified Hospitality Graduate (CHG) certifications from the Accrediting Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration™. Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry Arts students are eligible for Certification by the American Culinary Federation. The CHG is an industry-recognized professional certification that has been granted to only three hospitality programs in the state of Texas and only one program in the college’s service area. For information on registration in the college’s program, contact the department staff at 210-486-2315 or book reservations with the staff of the college’s student-operated restaurant by calling 210-486-2328.