COLUMBIA CITY — A Columbia City woman recently won a scholarship to study the culinary arts in France this spring.

Joyce Chaney graduated from Ivy Tech Community College’s Fort Wayne Campus with a degree in culinary arts and hospitality management in December.

She competed against 10 other students in the college’s 22nd annual European Competition Jan. 19.

The students had to prepare a meal including an entrée with a starch, vegetable and dessert. They had 30 minutes to create a menu and three and a half hours to complete their dish.

Kitchen judges watched and rated students as they worked, paying attention to technique and ability. Floor judges tasted the completed meals, not knowing which student made which plate.

Chaney said that while some of her fellow competitors were running around the kitchen in a frenzy, she felt like she could take her time and have fun. For her meal, she prepared chicken roulade filled with spinach, roasted red peppers and feta cheese; country green beans, risotto; and a chocolate torte with raspberry sauce for dessert.

When she found out that she was one of eight students who would travel to France, she was emotional.

“I had to hold back happy tears. I’ve never done anything like this, I’ve never won anything like this,” she said.

The award is a milestone in what has been a long journey for Chaney. She worked in a factory for 22 years before going back to school to pursue her dream of starting her own business.

“My goal is to have my own catering business and/or food truck,” she said.

She’s always loved cooking, which she learned from her mom, who cooked for the military.

At Ivy Tech, Chaney was often the oldest student in the classroom, but it was a positive experience, she said.

“I made a lot of new friends and met a lot of new people and I learned a lot,” she said.

Chaney graduated from the program in December, the same year her daughter graduated from college and her son graduated from high school.

Chaney’s son, Justin Meeks, 18, joined the U.S. Army after graduating from Central Noble High School and is stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington where he serves as a military police officer. Meeks said he has always admired his mom’s work ethic.

“She would go to school and then go straight to work,” he said. “She was pretty busy, but she still got good grades, so that was pretty cool.”

He’s always been a fan of her cooking, so he wasn’t surprised that she won the culinary competition. Living so far from home, he misses her cooking, especially her homemade chicken and noodles with mashed potatoes.

Chaney’s daughter, Kyla Chaney, 22, recently graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne with a degree in criminal justice. She just started a job as a St. Joseph County dispatcher in Michigan.

Growing up, Kyla said her mom taught her everything she knows about cooking. She is proud of her mom for following her dream even though the journey hasn’t been easy.

“She worked really hard to get where she’s at. It’s not easy working a full-time job and going after your dream,” she said.

In May, Chaney and the other winners will travel to France for two weeks. She’s never traveled to France before, so she’s excited for the new experience.

“We’re going to go into restaurants and into kitchens and see how they do things,” she said.

Based on the students’ experience in France, they will create the menu for this year’s “A Reason to Taste,” the college’s largest annual fundraiser.