100 Chefs at UMass Amherst Conference to Answer a Familiar Question: What's For Dinner?

AMHERST, Mass. - Approximately 100 head chefs from colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada will attend "Collegiate Cuisine 2000" at the University of Massachusetts, May 24-28. Kenneth Toong, director of dining services at UMass, is the coordinator of the event.

The chefs will spend the first day at the Mullins Center, attending presentations on topics such as how to spice up collegiate cuisine, and current food trends on college campuses. The remaining four days, participants will attend morning workshops focusing on vegetarian and vegan cuisine; global cuisine; and how the popular food-court concept can be adopted at colleges. The food court allows students to have their food prepared to order, at various cooking stations. Chefs will also discuss food styling and presentation.

Afternoons, they will don chef’s whites and toques, and descend on the kitchens of Worcester Dining Commons to test and develop 150 recipes aimed at pleasing collegiate palates. Toong notes that in addition to preparing meals that are appealing, nutritious, and cost-effective, at their jobs the chefs must cook for thousands of people at a sitting.

Master Chef David St. John-Grubb, one of just 63 master chefs in the nation, will lead the classes and cooking workshops. St. John-Grubb was a senior instructor, then a professor at the renowned Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Hyde Park, N.Y. One of his strengths is teaching chefs who must serve high-quality cuisine to very large groups of people, such as those on cruise ships or in hotels that host conferences ? or on college campuses.

The conference will culminate May 28 in a "fun but serious" competition, Toong says. From 11 a.m.-2 p.m., teams of chefs will be provided with baskets of provisions, and will create meals that will be judged for taste, presentation, temperature, and texture, according to American Culinary Association guidelines. The judges will include Hugh Robert, a CIA-trained chef from Rhode Island, and St. John-Grubb, along with other food experts.

NOTE: The press is welcome to cover any part of the conference. Afternoon cooking workshops and Friday’s competition are the most visual segments of the conference. Although the competition is closed to the public, invited guests and the press are welcome to share in the meal. For more information, contact Kenneth Toong at 413/545-2472 or ktoong@mail.aux.umass.edu