Cornell Dining team comes home from Skidmore with gold medal
Each January, Cornell Dining sends a contingent to the annual American Culinary Foundation Conference and Competition at Skidmore College, and the team of four that headed to Skidmore College this month came away with a Gold Medal from the "Chopped" style contest featuring contestants from ten institutions across the northeast.
Participants came from Binghamton University, Bonnie Briar Country Club, Cornell University, Skidmore College, St. Lawrence University, State University of New York at Albany, State University of New York at Cobleskill, State University of New York at Geneseo, Tufts University, and Williams College.
Each four-person team must prepare both a four-course menu and a buffet presentation to serve twenty for judging by a panel of seven chefs that will judge based on originality, taste, and presentation, with points awarded or deducted for timing, teamwork, utilization of food, skills, sanitation and overall preparation.
"Some teams just send high-level professional chefs," according to Cornell Dining's Executive Chef and Director of Culinary Innovation Steven Miller, CEC, CCA, "but we want to send the chefs of the future." Cornell Dining uses the opportunity to select hourly cooks who've been identified by their unit chefs as staff members with potential.
Accompanying Chef Matt Seeber and Sous Chef Greggory Rogers this time around were Mackenzie Korb and Kayla Hoffman, two up-and-coming members of our culinary staff. Once the team is selected, Chef Miller says there are weekly practice sessions to get the competitors ready for whatever mystery ingredients are thrown their way in the competition. "We change up the proteins and vegetables and help the group come up with reliable menu concepts that they become good at."
At Skidmore, the chefs were presented a market basket that contained four Cornish game hens, four New England hard shell lobsters, vegan pepperoni, and two pork tenderloins as proteins; Napa cabbage, oyster mushrooms, Tuscan kale, and fresh artichokes as vegetables; Peruvian sweet potatoes, Israeli couscous, and red quinoa as starches; blood oranges, pomegranates, dried Turkish apricots, and persimmons as fruits; plus hazelnuts and a surprise item of blue cheese. Competitors were required to use at least part of all of the ingredients.
The Cornell team put together an appetizer course of Lobster Dumpling and Butter Poached Lobster Tail with Braised Swiss Chard, Artichoke, and Vegan Pepperoni; an entrée course of Roasted & Braised Cornish Game Hen with Israeli Couscous, Oyster Mushroom, Peruvian Sweet Potato, and Sauce Bordelaise; a dessert course of Cornell Carrot Mousse Cake with Blood Orange filling, Red Quinoa Shortbread, Beet Caramel, and a Hazelnut Brittle; and a buffet presentation of Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apricot Sauce stuffed with Spinach and Blue Cheese, and Red Quinoa, Tuscan Kale & Napa Cabbage Salad with Persimmon.
Cornell's team was one of three that earned a gold medal based on the judging. The Bonnie Briar Country Club and Skidmore's own team also won gold.
"Our chefs are great cooks," Chef Miller says, "and they're learning how to compete on a national level." At the same time, events like this have a huge impact on hourly staff, who can "grow professionally and competitively and learn who they want to be in the future."
About Cornell Dining
Cornell Dining is consistently ranked in the Princeton Review's top ten for best campus food among all colleges and universities in the country. That high rating comes from customer surveys, and reflects Cornell Dining's commitment to serving high-quality foods that are healthy and creatively prepared with genuine care for a diverse community. Cornell Dining operates 29 on-campus eateries -- which include all-you-care-to-eat dining rooms, cafés, coffee houses, food courts, and convenience stores -- and serves more than 23,000 meals a day to members of the Cornell community. For more information, visit dining.cornell.edu.