Breanna Barragan, Eric Kinjo and Steven Pham posing for a photo after they heard they were finalists. COURTESY OF ERIC KINJO

Students to compete in Chicago baking competition

Let’s get ready to crumble because this year, three CPP students will be competing as finalists at the American Society of Baking’s (ASB) annual Product Development Competition. 

Breanna Barragan, Eric Kinjo and Steven Pham posing for a photo after they heard they were finalists. (Courtesy of Eric Kinjo)

Cal Poly Pomona is the only school representing the entire West Coast, as the other three schools competing will be Purdue University from Indiana, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Wisconsin. 

The team consists of fourth-year food science and technology student Eric Kinjo, fifth-year food science and technology student Breanna Barragan and fourth-year food science and technology student Steven Pham.

Kinjo holds the most baking experience, as he worked in restaurants before coming to CPP. This helped him pursue a minor in culinology. 

Initially the team was put together at random. Kinjo did not know neither Barragan or Pham, but they grew close quickly despite their short time together and Kinjo said he is proud of all their hard work and innovative skills.

“I could really hone in on my desire to develop new and innovative food products that have yet to make it to the market,” Kinjo said. “We still have a bit of work left to do until we go to Chicago and compete, but I could not be more proud of how far we’ve come so far, and I’m excited to go with the team that we’ve made.”

Not everyone on the team had the experience and passion for baking like Kinjo did. 

Pham had no real interest in baking at first and only chose baking because he thought it would be easy.

Even though he was not particularly interested in the craft after forming the team, he started working at a test kitchen.

“Out of the given possibilities to choose from, the baking one seemed easiest due to the guidelines present and now I currently am working part-time in a [research and development] test kitchen where baking is the primary thing to do,” Pham said. 

Pham said being a finalist is exciting.

“I am ecstatic to be a finalist,” he said. “I get to go to Chicago which alone is pretty neat. It is also very surreal, but this chance I’ve been given opens plenty of potential future opportunities.”

For Barragan, who is the only woman on the team, baking was also a first-time experiment.

After some time working with grains, baking became a challenging and fun experience for her and she said she is happy to be part of the team and go to Chicago with Kinjo and Pham. 

Since all three members’ majors have an emphasis in food science and technology, but not necessarily baking, being part of the competition was a different experience for them all. This year’s competition focused on incorporating ancient grains into flatbread products.

“It was just the competition that the team was most drawn to,” Barragan said. “We found that cool and challenging.”

After they developed their product, it was submitted to the ASB and the team got selected.

All three of them will be heading to Chicago later this month. The competition will run Feb. 24-26 and each member of the winning team will receive a $2,000 scholarship.


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