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Honors and Awards

UMass Amherst Strikes Gold for The Tenth Time in Collegiate Culinary Competition

AMHERST, Mass. – UMass Dining brought home gold at the American Culinary Federation’s (ACF) collegiate competition held during the 28th Annual Chef Culinary Conference at University of Massachusetts Amherst last week.

umass dining award
UMass Amherst Gold Plate Meal

The UMass Amherst team featured chefs Robert Bankert, Caleb Pham, Paul Provost and Stephanie Briones. The chefs tested their skills against eight other college and university culinary teams of four from across the United States including Pomona College, UC San Diego, Virginia Tech and Rice University.

Each team was required to prepare a four-course meal, including a buffet-style item to be served to the judges and competing teams. Team UMass Amherst led with a pan-seared Atlantic pollock as their appetizer, served slow-roasted lamb ribeye and braised lamb ragout as their entrée and closed with a pistachio choux craquelin for dessert. The buffet item was a turmeric and lemongrass roasted shrimp with pistachio-raisin pulao, sautéed watercress, seared nectarines and broccoli-red lentil pakora. Teams had two hours to prepare and serve the first three courses and one hour for the buffet item.

“I’m very proud of the team today, more so than any other team I have competed with in the past,” says Executive Chef Robert Bankert. “To walk away with a gold medal was extra special. The hard work and dedication from the UMass Dining team behind the scenes, making this (conference) happen sets a new standard that has never been achieved before.”

Umass Amherst Award Winning Staff
UMass Amherst Award Winning Staff

“It’s the best feeling,” says Chef Caleb Pham. “We made some good food that people like and we have fun in the kitchen -- I think that is one of the most important things.”

Ken Toong, executive director of UMass Amherst Auxiliary Enterprises and co-chair of the Chef Culinary Conference, congratulated participants. “We had an excellent group of competitors this year. Everybody brought their best and it showed,” Toong said. “I think this year was extra special because it was the first time we have hosted in-person since 2019.”

The 28th Annual Chef Culinary Conference is regarded as the premiere gathering for food service professionals to learn about the latest scientific findings in nutrition, flavor trends, culinary education and technological know-how – all delivered in an engaging environment. The Chef Culinary Conference aims to bring food service concepts into the next generation, embracing nutrition, sustainability and food ethics to meet the increasing diversity of consumers’ preferences. UMass Amherst looks forward to hosting the 29th Chef Culinary Conference June 10-15, 2023.