AMHERST, Mass. – UMass Dining brought home the gold for the ninth year in a row at the American Culinary Federation’s (ACF) collegiate competition held during the 25th Annual Tastes of the World Chef Culinary Conference at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
The UMass Amherst team featured chefs Pamela Adams, Robert Bankert, Geoff McDonald and Kevin Paul. The chefs tested their skills against 16 other culinary teams of four representing colleges and universities from across the United States, Canada and China, including Pennsylvania State University, University of Guelph, Pamona College, Rice University, Cornell University, Florida Institute of Technology, University of Georgia and University of North Texas.
Each team was required to prepare a three-course menu for the judges. Having only two hours to prepare, the teams sought to deliver the highest quality combination of courses. The UMass Amherst gold medal menu offered crudo of branzino (seabass), slow-cooked duck breast and duck leg-moong dal croquette, and caramel corn white chocolate mousse.
“The ACF Competition was fierce this year, and our team was proud to represent UMass Amherst. A big thank you to Wayne Lavalle, Maggie Reitzel and the rest of the staff at UMass who organized the event,” said UMass Dining Executive Chef Robert Bankert, himself an award-winning gold-medal chef.
It was a record-breaking year for the top award as Skidmore College, McDaniel College, University of Guelph, Rice University and Cornell University also received ACF gold medals.
Chef Noble Masi, who has been with the conference for seven years and organizes the ACF team competition, noted the significance of this year’s event, “This year was exceptional in several respects as we engaged the largest judging panel we have ever had, with 10 certified ACF judges, four of whom hold ACF's highest certification level of Certified Master Chef.” There are only 68 Certified Master Chefs in the United States.
Masi continues, “We began increasing the number of judges each year of the competition to provide the competitors greater and more detailed feedback, and I believe as a result it led to a higher skill level and a record number of gold medals being awarded this year.”
Ken Toong, executive director of Auxiliary Enterprises and co-chair of the Chef Culinary Conference, congratulated the participants. “This was a serious, but fun competition. We’re all blessed with an abundance of culinary talent in campus dining. I am also so proud of our UMass team; they are always working so hard to be innovative and always produce healthy, sustainable and delicious menu items.”
UMass Amherst Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance Andrew Mangels assisted in giving out certificates to all teams at the conclusion of the competition.
The 25th Annual Tastes of the World Chef Culinary Conference was one of the most attended, with more than 400 participants.
It is regarded as the premiere gathering for food service professionals to learn about the latest scientific research 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.