Gwinnett Tech Culinary Arts Student Wins National Recipe Contest

October 14, 2014

Gwinnett Tech Culinary Arts Student Wins National Recipe Contest
Eljesa Haxhiu’s Winning Creation Earns a Prize for GTC, Too


Eljesa Haxhiu, a Culinary Arts student at Gwinnett Technical College, has won first place in a national recipe contest for Maple Leaf Farms, an Indiana-based producer of duck products.

Culinary Arts Student Wins National Recipe Contest
(left to right) Jermaine Whirl, dean of Business and Art & Design, Gwinnett Tech; Clark Raines, Maple Leaf Farms; Eljesa Haxhiu, Gwinnett Tech Culinary Arts student; and Kerri Crean, Culinary Arts program director, Gwinnett Tech.

Eljesa earned $2,500 for her creation – Citrus Seared Duck Breast with Herb Goat Cheese. Her win is also a win for Gwinnett Tech. The college’s Culinary Arts program will receive $1,000 in duck products.

The annual contest challenged professional chefs and culinary students to produce an original recipe showcasing Maple Leaf Farms duck.  Over 260 recipes from across the country were submitted for both the chef and student categories. The recipes were judged on creativity, accuracy of recipe and flavor. View all the winners at

Eljesa’s success is not without hard work and dedication that expands well beyond the classroom. “I spent about two weeks, literally every moment I was awake and asleep, thinking about what I wanted to pair the duck with and how I was going to plate it up. I honestly felt like I won a million dollars because of all the time I spent working on my recipe.”

Kerri Crean, Culinary Arts program director at Gwinnett Tech has high praise for Eljesa. “It is the dream of all instructors for a student to walk into their classroom who helps them to grow.  Eljesa’s passion and dedication to the craft inspires me to be a better instructor and continue to grow as a chef every day.”

Already an award-winning chef, Eljesa won a gold medal in Culinary Arts at the Georgia SkillsUSA State Competition and moved on to compete at the national level. To enhance her skills and cultivate her creativity, she participated in a cooking internship at Five and Ten in Athens.

Eljesa has plan for her winnings. “I plan on using the money to take a trip this winter break to go to Kosovo, the place I am from. I will be doing some research and development to open a restaurant in the future,” she said.

In the meantime, Elejsa has been hired as a lab assistant for the Culinary Arts program at Gwinnett Tech, where Crean believes her experiences will be inspiring to the other students.

The Culinary Arts associate degree program covers every aspect of modern cooking and trains students in the specialties of baking, hors d'oeuvres, pantry presentation and banquet-style dining. The program also teaches students how to run a restaurant by providing a foundation in the managerial and personal skills that are needed to interact with customers, manage employees, and successfully operate a business. Gwinnett Tech also offers a diploma in Culinary Arts, as well as several specialized certificate options.

GTC offers more than 50 degree, diploma and certificate student options that can be completed in two years or less. For more information, visit or call 770-962-7580.

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