Brighton students cook up a winning recipe at DC’s first ever Epic Mac N’ Cheese Competition

It was a gouda day at Durham College’s (DC) Centre for Food (CFF) as 13 teams of grade 11 and 12 students faced off in the college’s first ever Epic Man N’ Cheese competition on Saturday, April 11.

The students developed their own unique twist on the old family favourite using top-quality local ingredients such as smoked duck, Montreal smoked beef, salmon, lobster, fresh vegetables and herbs, and, of course, a range of cheeses including asiago, blue, brie, fontina, Colby, cheddar, goat’s cheese and more provided by a variety of sponsors.

Each team produced a stunning dish, but the winning recipe was Spicy Mac N’ Cheese whipped up by Tamara Pantaleo and Johanna Buttle of East Northumberland Secondary School, in Brighton, Ont. With Muenster cheese, merguez sausage made by the students in DC’s Culinary Skills program, cayenne pepper and fresh herbs, it was a combination that couldn’t be beat.

“Winning the contest definitely helps me get my name out there in the field and builds confidence in my cooking abilities,” said Tamara Pantaleo. “I plan on going to DC in the fall so it’s also nice to already have experience with the culinary program there.”

“The competition helped decide my post-secondary path,” said Johanna Buttle. “Winning proves that I can succeed with a future in culinary arts.

The winners were chosen by event attendees who enjoyed a sample size portion of each concoction then voted for their top choice. Honourable mentions go to:

Second Place:  Notre Dame Catholic High School
Megan McGrath
Jaelyn Mason

Second Place:  Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School
Morgan Mackenzie 
Nic Cranney

Third Place:  J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate
Jeni Monette
Jack Lloyd

“We were thrilled to see so many aspiring chefs cooking up a storm in our kitchens, and the support from the community was outstanding,” said Dave Hawey, chef, professor and coordinator of the culinary programs, at DC. “We’d also like to thank our generous sponsors for donating the ingredients and prizes, which allows the college to reinvest 100 per cent of ticket sales back into student education and training.  Several local businesses also purchased tickets to support the event.”

All the cheddar raised at the Epic Mac N’ Cheese Competition will be held in a bursary fund to support students considering a career in culinary, hospitality or special events planning at DC. All students who participated in the competition are eligible to apply for the bursary.  

Epic Mac N’ Cheese Competition Winning Recipe: Spicy Mac n’ Cheese

  • 1/3 cup of salted butter
  • 5 tbsp. of flour
  • 1 cup Muenster cheese
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tbsp. of mustard
  • 1 egg yolk

 Melt butter in pan and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the flour, one tablespoon at a time. Keep the heat on low, whisking until it darkens in colour (about seven minutes). Add the milk a bit at a time, whisking until it’s absorbed, then adding more. Simmer for as long as possible but 20 minutes is advised, stirring every five minutes to keep it from sticking to the bottom. Add the mustard and egg yolk.


  • 2 stripped Merguez sausages, separated (made by the students in DC’s Culinary Skills program – available for purchase at Pantry)
  • Cayenne
  • Salt / pepper
  • Oregano
  • Crushed chilly flakes
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh basil
  • Chives
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 diced onion
  • Green onion, chopped
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • 3 chopped mushrooms

Caramelize garlic and onion in a pan. Brown the sausage in the same pan. Add a pinch of each spice. Add the mushroom and roasted pepper last. Add the mixture to cooked pasta and sauce. Put it into a dish.


  • 1 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tbsp. oregano
  • tbsp. melted butter
  • 1/3 cup asiago cheese

Mix breadcrumbs and oregano. Mix a 1/4 into the meat and pasta mixture. Add the butter to the rest of the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle asiago over the mixture. Apply the rest to create a layer on top of the pasta and broil for five minutes.