Sullivan University and NASA Team Up for High School Cooking Competition

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In a unique partnership combining education and space travel, Sullivan University's renowned College of Hospitality Studies Culinary Arts Program is teaming with NASA's HUNCH program on a competition to select a food item that will be served to the crew of the International Space Station.

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"Sullivan was chosen for our program due to their tremendous culinary programs with high schools around the country and their willingness to help our top students in the HUNCH culinary challenge achieve scholarships and learning through their programs." - Alli Westover, NASA Project Engineer

In a unique partnership combining education and space travel, Sullivan University's renowned College of Hospitality Studies Culinary Arts Program is teaming with NASA's HUNCH program on a competition to select a food item that will be served to the crew of the International Space Station.

During April, Sullivan chefs will make the recipes created by the top 10 high school cooking teams from around the country that are competing for college scholarships in The NASA Hunch Culinary Challenge, which develops food items for the astronauts aboard the Space Station. This challenge encompasses knowledge of space physiology, food science, and processing food for the microgravity environment.

"Sullivan’s Chefs will have a tremendous role this year," said Alli Westover, a NASA project engineer who manages the HUNCH culinary program. "Sullivan was chosen for our program due to their tremendous culinary programs with high schools around the country and their willingness to help our top students in the HUNCH culinary challenge achieve scholarships and learning through their programs."

"Sullivan University is the first university to team up with NASA Hunch and award scholarships for top teams," said Domonic Tardy, the Sullivan University Regional Chef Representative who helped forge the university's partnership with NASA.

"Being able to partner with the NASA Hunch program brings such excitement to Sullivan University," Chef Tardy said. "We are able to support the students and partner with something as amazing as NASA to make a difference in students' lives. These students get to create a recipe and the winning meal goes to space. What an honor!"

The HUNCH mission is to empower and inspire students through a Project Based Learning program where high school students learn 21st century skills and have the opportunity to launch their careers through the participation in the design and fabrication of real-world valued products for NASA.

Each year there is a new theme given out to the schools where the students create new dishes taking into account food processing procedure and nutritional requirements so that their items will meet the standards of the NASA Johnson Space Center Food Lab. Last year's competition theme was international food; this year the theme is healthy comfort food.

Normally, the final competition for the top 10 teams is judged by a panel of NASA personnel, including astronauts. Last year, Sullivan University chefs served as judges and the university awarded scholarships to members of the winning team. Sullivan was the first university to award scholarships to top team members.

"People often complement a great dish by saying that it’s out of this world," said Chef David Hendricksen, Dean of Sullivan University's College of Hospitality Studies. "This competition is a chance for students to create a dish that is truly out of this world!"

But the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a shutdown of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, and spurred some creativity by the event organizers for this year's competition.

"Since we are not able to have our normal event, we wanted to get creative and asked if Sullivan could help us by making the top 10 recipes and then have a judging panel to help evaluate the recipes," Westover said. "Sullivan has offered to Zoom with the top 10 teams in regard to their recipes and to have a Facebook live event when they are cooking and judging the food. This will be an incredible opportunity for the HUNCH Culinary challenge to finalize this event for all of the students involved."

Sullivan chef representatives will create the students' recipes, meeting individually and virtually with each team to help in defining their full version of the recipe.

"The students have to meet many kinds of requirements as far as flavor, spices, and the nutritional value in order to qualify for being a meal that could be taken to space," Chef Tardy said. "The winning meals will be either freeze dried, thermostabalized, or vacuum sealed so they can be sent up to the International Space Station."

Chef Tardy learned about the HUNCH Culinary Competition two years ago while on a recruiting visit to Warren Career Center in southern Ohio. He was asked to serve as a judge and learned that NASA was hoping to partner with a university on the program.

"It has been a great honor to be involved in this program," Chef Tardy said. "To be able to involve Sullivan University and help connect with students and change their lives is something I cannot describe."

About Sullivan University
Sullivan University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097, call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Sullivan University or visit them online at http://www.sacscoc.org.

The University offers numerous certificates, diplomas, and degrees in career-orientated programs, ranging from business, pharmacy, human resources, I.T. and cybersecurity, supply-chain management, culinary and baking and pastry arts, hospitality studies, conflict management, nursing, allied health sciences, HVAC-R, interior design, and legal studies. Sullivan University has campuses in Louisville and Lexington, an extension in Fort Knox on the U.S. Army Post and a Learning Center in Louisa. Sullivan University also has many programs available partially or wholly online. For more information, visit http://www.sullivan.edu.

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