SMCC’s Culinary Arts team wins “Maine’s Best Breakfast” at the 2024 Maine Restaurant Week’s Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – Chef Bo Byrne and his Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) Culinary Arts students Simon Allen, Dominica Capelo, Juan Herrera, Liv Koss, Kenzia Marriner, Leif McKenna, Amanda Palma, and Laura Vasquez showed their exceptional talents to Maine’s foodie community by winning the 2024 Maine Restaurant Week’s Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off.

SMCC Culinary Arts Win

Chef Bo Byrne and his SMCC Culinary Arts students Simon Allen, Dominica Capelo, Juan Herrera, Liv Koss, Kenzia Marriner, Leif McKenna, Amanda Palma, and Laura Vasquez

SMCC team’s winning dish, “The Pico Suave” Egg, reimagined a classic Maine breakfast sandwich. The dish started with a scrambled egg atop a buttery bun, then layered with cheddar, smoked bacon, Sriracha aioli, pico de gallo, cilantro, crunchy tortilla threads, and queso fresco. 

The highly anticipated annual event, held at Sea Dog Brewing in South Portland, brought together 10 local chefs competing for the prestigious title of “Maine’s Best Breakfast.”

Chef Byrne, a frequent participant in the annual cook-off, shared his first win personally with his Culinary Arts students in the high-profile competition. The event, known for its friendly yet competitive atmosphere, drew approximately 250 breakfast enthusiasts eager to sample the creative dishes crafted by the finest culinary minds in the region.

“I couldn’t be happier for this group of students,” Culinary Arts instructor Chef Bo Byrne said. “The chefs in this competition are legitimate, nationally recognized chefs. So, to go into their arena and compete, stand toe to toe with them, and win the event – what a huge accomplishment. What a valuable, real-world experience for these students. I’m just thrilled that I could be their instructor and coach them along the way.”

Culinary Arts first-year student Simon Allen was stunned by the win. “I was like, are we? Did that happen? That didn’t happen,” Allen said. “There’s no way we just beat restaurants and chefs who have been doing this for 30, 40 years when it’s our first year. What an incredible experience.” 

“Chef Bo and his students did a tremendous job representing our program,” Culinary Arts & L. Joe Van Why School of Hospitality Chair Maureen LaSalle said. “Serious kudos to Chef Bo. It’s a ton of extra work to plan and execute something of this magnitude – the students received real-world experience and learning. Thank you, Bo, for all you did to pull this together, and congratulations to all the students involved.”

Another Culinary Arts first-year student, Liv Koss, said the atmosphere created by Chef Byrne and the program in general led to the team’s success.

“Chef Byrne and all our instructors work hard to help us succeed,” Koss said. “Their commitment to my success, their skills, give me a tremendous amount of confidence. I’m learning a lot and have a shot at making this my career.”

This year’s competitors included culinary heavyweights such as The Black Tie Company, Eighteen 95/The Regency, The Good Table, Noble Kitchen + Bar/Brunswick Hotel, Sea Dog Brewing, Sea Glass/Inn By The Sea, $3 Dollar Deweys, Ugly Duckling, and UNION/Press Hotel. The cook-off not only showcases the culinary diversity of Southern Maine but also raised $8,000 for Preble Street. The Portland-based organization offers accessible, barrier-free services to empower people experiencing homelessness, housing insecurity, hunger, and poverty and to advocate for solutions to these issues.

“When you come to SMCC, one of the unique experiences is that you’re going to almost work at four different restaurants,” Chef Byrne said. “You’ll be immersed in the bake shop, fish, chicken, and beef styles. Then, we introduce students to all the essential financial pieces of running a restaurant. It’s such a great, well-rounded program. We’re setting our students up to become successful chefs and potential business owners. What a joy to share this experience with them all. 

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