UMass Dining Strikes Gold for Sixth Year in a Row, Besting Teams from 14 Colleges and Universities in Cooking Competition

UMass Gold Medal Team
From left, Anthony Jung, Pamela Adams, Robert Bankert and Matthia Accurso prepare their first-place menu in the American Culinary Federation sanctioned competition held June 10.

AMHERST, Mass. – UMass Dining took gold for the sixth year in a row at the American Culinary Federation-sanctioned competition held June 10 during the 22nd annual Tastes of the World Culinary Conference at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Chefs Pamela Adams, Matthia Accurso, Anthony Jung and Robert Bankert competed against 14 other culinary teams from across the United States and Canada. Teams from schools such as Ohio State, Virginia Tech and University of Michigan used whole duck, bronzino, farro, watermelon, fresh cherries and apricots to create their dishes.  

The UMass Amherst team’s winning menu consisted of three courses and a buffet service. Their meal included a first course of bronzino with arugula mousseline and pan-roasted spot prawns, charred eggplant, artichoke hearts, heirloom tomato-fennel emulsion and crispy skin. Their second course consisted of pan-roasted duck breast and braised thigh, grilled apricots, braised cherries and pistachios, goat cheese farro, garlic confit and green beans. The third course featured a contemporary baumkuchen with watermelon mousse, filled with a cilantro-lime watermelon mousse, lavender watermelon sauce and vanilla tuile. The buffet service was lemongrass-infused jasmine rice, sautéed spinach and charred poblano-avocado cream.

Judge John Noble Masi said the reason for the UMass team’s success “was their overall balance in the food they served. There was good balance in both portion size and in flavor of the dishes. One item on the plate did not overpower the other items and the portion sizes were appropriate to the course.” Masi also commended the UMass chefs on the way they used ingredients: “Very few, if any other competitors presented a dessert, much less, a dessert with the watermelon as the focus. In my mind, if you can present a dish that takes the ingredients to a different place and that dish also tastes delicious, then that can lead to great performance.” 

“We are so proud of the accomplishments of our culinary team,” said Ken Toong, executive director of UMass Amherst Auxiliary Enterprises. “They are truly professionals and ambassadors of UMass. We will feature their award-winning dishes on our menu as we continue to provide healthy, sustainable and delicious cuisine to the campus community, one meal at a time.” 

The Chef Culinary Conference focused on the concept of food as medicine and love—one that embraces health, sustainability and food ethics to meet the growing diversity of consumer preferences. Featured presenters included chef and bestselling author Alice Waters, UMass Amherst alumna and chef Joanne Weir and the Food Network’s Jet Tila. Hundreds of chefs and food service directors from the U.S. and Canada attended, making this year’s conference the largest in its 22-year history.