NC Students win gold and bronze in culinary, gold in hairstyling at Skills Ontario competition

Culinary Arts gold medal winner Quentin Petkovich and bronze winner Hunter Spicer, both Culinary Management students at Niagara College, stand on the podium at the 2018 Skills Ontario competition. This is the second year in a row that Petkovich has won the gold.



Niagara College students showed their mastery of culinary arts as well as hairstyling at the 2018 Skills Ontario Competition, held May 7-9 at the Toronto Congress Centre.

NC dominated the podium in the Culinary Arts competition, with Second year Culinary Management student Quentin Petkovich bringing home the gold medal for the second year in a row, and first year student Hunter Spicer picking up bronze. Spicer was the 2017 winner of the Culinary Arts competition for secondary school students.

Both students trained rigorously for the competition under the supervision of Olaf Mertens, chef professor with NC’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute.

“Mentoring our students is about pushing them to new heights, skills, techniques, and enhancing their soft skills,” said Mertens. “This regimen continues to serve these student well in the classroom, lab, in industry and in life.”

 Mertens also worked with Vincenza Smith, culinary instructor at St. Paul Catholic High School in Niagara Falls to mentor this year’s gold medal winner of the Culinary Arts Competition for secondary school students. “Vincenza builds a solid foundation with these students and we then set up just reachable goals to drive the student competitors to learn from their successes,” said Mertens. “We share the journey all together and as a family, even CFWI alumni come back to this college to help mentor each year’s new family.”

NC’s podium-topping didn’t stop with culinary. Hairstyling student Melissa Dolton also won gold in the Hairstyling competition. This was the second gold in as many years for NC’s Hairstyling program.  

Niagara College Hairstyling student Melissa Dolton shows off her gold medal-winning designs at the 2018 Skills Ontario Competition. This is the second year Niagara College has won gold in the hairstyling competition

Joe Abbruscato, program coordinator for NC’s Hairstyling and Hairstyling Apprenticeship said “I am very proud of Melissa’s accomplishments and am looking forward to seeing her represent Ontario and Niagara College at the National competitions in Edmonton this June.”

Abbruscato, who is also co-chair for the Skills Hairstyling Competition also remarked that the back-to-back wins not only reflect the quality of NC students, but also the team effort among program staff and faculty, including Julia Falvo, who last year was recognized at the Skills Competition with the first ever Alumni Award of Excellence. “I’m very fortunate to have a great team around me, said Abbruscato, “All the teachers work closely with each other and with the competitors.”

Niagara College’s associate dean for the School of Trades, Jeff Murrell, also as moderated a discussion panel for Skills Ontario’s Young Women’s Conference, which exposed over 800 young women to employment opportunities in the skilled trades, and allowed them to hear from successful women working in those trades.


The Culinary Management program at Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute offers training in the fine arts of food preparation and presentation, as well as modern kitchen methods. A world-class faculty and state-of-the-art facilities make for an unbeatable combination in international culinary instruction. Students learn to apply basic and advanced food theories to all aspects of food preparation; to contribute to the provision of a healthy, safe kitchen environment; to use resources responsibly; and to apply kitchen management techniques.

Niagara College’s 12-month Hairstyling diploma program prepares students academically for hairstyling and entry into apprenticeship.  State-of-the-art hairstyling labs provide an ideal venue for hands-on learning. The program works closely with industry employers, and students benefit from innovative technical skills through theoretical and practical training.

Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit




Media inquiries, please contact:

Andrew Korchok

Communications/Media Advisor

Office: 905 641-2252 ext. 7430

Cell: 905 329-1642


Michael Wales

Manager, Communications                                                                                                                                          

Office: 905 735-2211 ext. 7773

Cell: 905 328-4101