AMHERST, Mass. – UMass Amherst chef de cuisine Robert Bankert captured first place and won the gold medal in the 2017 Culinary Challenge staged at the annual conference of the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS), held July 12-15 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Representing the Northeast region of NACUFS, Bankert won the title with his dish of pork loin wrapped with porcini farce and confit fat cap, polenta, braised wild mushrooms and kale, skillet roasted fennel and apricot glaze. His winning plate bested chefs from five other universities, including Ohio State and the University of Minnesota-Duluth, who were the winning representatives from their specific regions and earned the right to compete in the finals. The event tasked chefs with featuring bone-in pork loin as the protein in their dishes.
“Like in the regional competition, the finals were very tough,” Bankert said. “As always, I want to thank the outstanding team at UMass Dining for all their support and guidance. This medal is a reflection of the great work we do every day.”
“We are so proud of Chef Bankert and his accomplishment,” said Ken Toong, executive director of UMass Auxiliary Enterprises. “He is an extraordinarily talented chef. We are thankful that he is on our team and can contribute to the great things happening here every day. We are all UMass proud.”
Bankert joins fellow UMass chefs Matthia Accurso and Anthony Jung who previously won the national competition.
The event was performed in a Food Network-style atmosphere during the NACUFS industry appreciation reception. Three chefs served as announcers for the two-hour event, keeping spectators up to date on the chefs’ progress while adding tidbits of information about the chefs and their dishes.