Cooking Competition Turns Sustainably Caught Mexican Tuna into World Class Cooking on a Budget

Aspiring Chefs at L’Academie de Cuisine Team Up to Deliver Winning Recipes
June 23rd, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C., – On June 6th, the Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna pitted aspiring chefs from L’Academie de Cuisine, a top national cooking school, against each other in a Top Chef-style cooking contest to create world-class cuisine from affordable, sustainable Mexican tuna products. The students set out to prove that households on a budget can still enjoy great nutritious meals.

“Each team was required to use only sustainably caught tuna products from our member companies – the kinds of products you will find in an average household. These included frozen, canned, dried and pouched products,” said Mariana Ramos Sánchez, Director of the Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna.
The competition, which took place at L’Academie’s Gaithersburg, Md. campus, was judged by Mariana Ramos; Pati Jinich, host of PBS’ “Pati’s Mexican Table;” and Chef Jake Lydon, culinary chef instructor at L’Academie de Cuisine.

Five teams consisting of two to four students worked to create two appetizers and two entrees for the panel of judges. The teams were judged according to taste, presentation, use of tuna and execution of a coherent menu. The winning team, consisting of students Meredith Hishmeh, Samira Lilah, Kenjuan Simon and Sarah Vela were awarded top honors for their creations, which included Spicy Tuna Empanadas, Mini Tuna Cakes with Wasabi Mayo, Quinoa with Tuna and Roasted Vegetables served with Broccoli, and Seared Tuna over Udon Noodles with Bok Choy Stir Fry and Ponzu Sauce.

Jinich was happy to see the wide array of dishes the students created because, “When it comes to fish, tuna is one of the most nutritious and versatile ingredients; from sashimi and ceviche, to salads, casseroles and empanadas—just to name a few of my regular choices—cooks have such wide range of how to use it in successful ways in their kitchens.”

“Mexican tuna comes from one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world. It is an affordable and heart healthy source of protein,” said Ramos. “It is important that consumers know that there are many different ways to use this product besides a sandwich or salad. I was delighted to see the creative recipes these aspiring chefs came up with during the competition.”

“We were excited for our students to work with these products,” said Clarice Dionot, Director of Marketing at L’Academie de Cuisine. “Competitions like this incentivize our students to think outside the culinary box, creating delicious—and low-cost meals—from a sustainable staple. Everyone can eat like a star – sustainably, healthily, and affordably.”

The winning team’s dishes will be featured at an upcoming event at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C. To see the winning recipes, visit our website at:

About the Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna

The Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna is a group of like-minded, leading fishing companies that share a vision for thriving oceans – today and in the future. The members of the Alliance have committed to work together to ensure the sustainability of its fishery in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. For more information about the Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna, please visit

About L’Academie de Cuisine

L’Academie de Cuisine provides professional educational programs in the culinary and pastry arts that prepare students for employment and advancement in the hospitality industry. The institution seeks to continually grow and expand all levels of culinary and pastry education in response to hospitality industry needs. For more information, visit their website at