For Kingston grad Ayaka Guido, a young chef who bested celebrity chef Bobby Flay at his own game on his Food Network culinary competition series, Beat Bobby Flay, Ulster BOCES was the magic ingredient in her success story.
Guido grew up in Kingston and attended the Kingston City School District. Feeling confined by the traditional classroom setting, she found the Culinary Arts program at Ulster BOCES to be a good fit, noting that she not only received a fundamental education in the culinary arts, but she also got her first taste of culinary competition, earning second place in a state SkillsUSA cooking contest.
Guido graduated from high school in 2008 and moved on to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), where she earned an Associate in Culinary Arts degree. She then moved to New York City, where she currently cooks as a sous chef at a Thomas Keller-owned, three-star Michelin restaurant called Per Se.
Guido quickly became known in the culinary field for her innovative Japanese-Italian fusion cuisine, which draws from both of her cultural backgrounds. She began to participate — and eventually was featured — in culinary “pop-ups” around Manhattan. In 2019, the Bobby Flay show reached out to a professional colleague, who suggested they invite Guido to interview for the show. One phone call later and she was invited in to record the show in front of a live studio audience (although the pandemic pushed back the airing date to November 16, 2021). Guido admitted that she is not the most “upfront, confident person,” explaining that most chef training is focused on the “back of house” (kitchen), so being in the spotlight was a bit of a new experience.
Guido competed in the first round of the competition using a “mystery ingredient” chosen by Flay: walleye fish. Staying present in each moment as the clock ticked down kept her focused amidst a multitude of cameras and distractions. Unfamiliar with the fish, she worried she spent too much time fileting it; however, she ultimately dished it on top of complementary classic Mediterranean ingredients, securing the win.
For the final round, Guido challenged Chef Flay with a pasta creation, which is seldom invoked in the timed competition due to the complexity of the many steps required to make pasta. She quickly hurdled the pasta-making component and ultimately concocted an egg ravioli with egg yolk and crispy maitake mushrooms. In a blind taste test, the judges selected her dish over Chef Flay’s, earning her bragging rights.