Chefs representing 16 colleges recently gathered for Sodexo Northeast Campus Services'16th annual Culinary Achievement Forum, July 16-20 at St. Johnsbury Academy. The event featured intensive education and a "Localvore Iron Chef Cook-off" punctuating the importance of sourcing local ingredients.
The event brought together chefs, sous chefs, and cooks representing colleges, universities and independent schools throughout the Northeast.
"The Culinary Achievement Forum was a great experience and I felt honored to be among such talented chefs," said Jacob Mitchell, Sous Chef, Sodexo at University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. "I tend to be timid around large groups but everyone there pushed me to break out of my shell. What a great opportunity for any aspiring chef."
For the cook-off, experienced executive chefs were paired with a sous chef or cook. Teams were given 2.5 hours to prepare an appetizer, entrÃ©e and dessert utilizing a market basket of ingredients and pantry items including chicken from Misty Knoll Farms in Vermont, beef from Northeast Family Farms of New England and striped bass from Red's Best a partner in Northeast Oceans.
The striped bass was caught at 6 p.m. on Monday evening and transported for production the next day. Executive Chef Rob MacFarlane, one of the co-chairs of the event, commented "It doesn't get any fresher than that!"
The winning dish was chosen as a "People's Choice Award" by 150 Advanced Placement teachers from around the country who were attending a conference at St Johnsbury Academy.
The winning meal was prepared by Chef Greg Demers of Daniel Webster College. The dish included a first course of black and white sesame crusted local striped bass with carrot star anise puree over bed of baby spinach salad. The winning main course was a local mixed grill of maple soy chicken and sweet chili basted beef with a smoked Gouda and bacon polenta timbale topped with green beans sautÃ©ed with kohlrabi.
Highlights of the forum involved recipe creation to stimulate individual innovation and proactive engagement, a wine and food pairing during which instructors reviewed wine tasting basics and how to approach food pairings with special attention to catering operations. There was a focus on global dinner preparation featuring Korean, Indian and Vietnamese cuisine. Vegan and vegetarian education centered on new foods, innovative dishes, dietary considerations and showcasing new items featured in new Sodexo menus now circulating throughout the region.
"During my time at the forum, I received valuable training and insight on the art of cooking," said Brian Embry, Sous Chef, Sodexo at University of Massachusetts Boston. "The iron chef competition brought out a creative and innovative side of me that I was excited to identify."
For more information about Sodexo, go to www.sodexousa.com.