What is in this article?:
- Top College Chefs Compete Against the Clock, Other Regions
- Molecular Gastronomy Inspiration
This being Boston, the featured ingredient (always based on the conference location) was fresh from the sea: flounder. And an engaged campus dining crowd got to see six highly creative, complex—and delicious—interpretations by six NACUFS regional chefs. They brought their equipment, game faces and fans to the challenge, held on Thursday, July 12, during the conference.
Four ACF-credentialed judges critically evaluated each chef on creativity, presentation, taste of the finished product, demonstration of cooking and knife skills, nutritional balance, organizational skills and sanitation practices. (You can view an animated slide show of the competition here)
And the winner was…(we’ll get to that in a minute).
“It’s amazing when you look at the recipes as prepared by the six chefs, at how many different ways there are to prepare that fish,” says Jonna Anne, director of culinary operations and executive chef at SUNY Geneseo, who chaired the event. “Now, consider all the other recipes and presentations already eliminated in regional competitions earlier this year. You are really seeing the cream of the crop.”
Secret to Success
Laura Marie Strunk, catering chef, University of Notre Dame, won the challenge with her creation: citrus-cured sautéed flounder with vanilla bean buerre blanc and Panko-fennel-crusted fried oyster and citrus pearls with pan-caramelized rutabaga and carrots, black barley pilaf and zucchini coulis.
“The judges all wanted more of the oyster,” Anne says. “Not because the dish needed it, but because it was so good!”
For Strunk, preparation was the key.
“When I compete, I like to practice the entire execution at least ten times, so by the time I get up there in front of 280 people, it is just routine,” she says. “If I got nervous, I might forget the next step. I didn’t want any question in my mind as to what I needed do next. You’ve got to set yourself up to succeed.”
The judges remarked on how the vanilla in Strunk’s creation gave it a nice sweetness that balanced incredibly well with the other flavors in the dish, Anne says. “All of the flavors came together and really blended to give a full layering effect in your mouth. None of the flavors overpowered any others—they just played together really, really well.”