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Skidmore College

Great taste, good food, and a gold-medal performance

January 13, 2014
chefs study ingredients for competition
Karlson and Carey check pantry for ingredients.

It took eight years of competition under restricted circumstances. In the end, it may have been a sweet tart that melted judges’ hearts and helped Skidmore College earn a gold medal in the American Culinary Federation Culinary Competition/Conference that concluded Jan. 10 on campus.

Skidmore chefs Frank Esposito, Paul Karlson, Kelly Zimmerman and Scott Carey received loud cheers from the crowd on hand at Murray-Aikins Dining Hall Jan. 10, when the judges announced the results of the third annual ACF Culinary Conference and Competition. Of the 10 teams from five states that participated, Skidmore was one of three gold-medal winners, coming in just behind the Country Club of Chestnut Hill, Mass., (which repeated as top winner) and just ahead of Cornell University.

Lead judge Dale Miller called the competition an “outstanding experience” for the participating chefs, and cited their dedication toward improving their culinary skills.

jim rose and john chillrud
Chef Jim Rose makes duck sausage, assisted by
culinary student John Chillrud.

Skidmore’s winning menu featured a king crab and amaranth salad with celery root, fennel, and blood orange vinaigrette as salad/appetizer; an entree of apricot-glazed pork belly and pan-seared monk tail, sweet potato ginger puree, sautéed trumpet mushrooms, braised Nero di Toscana kale, and poached egg with brown-butter emulsion; and a pear and pecan tart with cranberry apricot coulis and chocolate sauce. The team also produced a buffet platter containing sautéed duck breast and duck sausage, trumpet mushroom risotto, Brussels sprouts, baby carrots, and a duck and blood orange jus. Each team worked with the same market basket of ingredients and had two hours to complete a three-course meal and one hour to prepare a buffet platter.

Silver medalists were Ithaca College, University of New Hampshire, University at Albany, Williams College, St. Lawrence University and Stonebridge Restaurant (Connecticut), and bronze went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

The Skidmore team was thrilled with the results.  “I’m speechless!” said Zimmerman, while Karlson called the win “a good feeling that was eight years in the making.”

Dining Services Director Mark Miller called the outcome “awesome.” He added, “It’s a relief for me. I think we are really good. Everyone who visits Skidmore and sees what we do at events like the Polo by Twilight and other special gatherings says that our food blows the competition away.”

Miller, a certified executive chef, once was a member of the Skidmore team that traveled each year to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, which hosts a conference/competition every June.  He said, “The last time I competed we missed gold by one-quarter point. No one talked in the car on the way home.”

ice sculpture
Ice sculpture created by Tony DeStratis serves
centerpiece. (All photos by Phil Scalia)

Participation builds camaraderie, says Miller.  It also promotes creativity and rewards teamwork. Points are awarded for service methods and presentation, including such criteria as is the food easy to eat? Are the ingredients fresh and colorful? How well is the food temperature maintained?

Other categories of judging include portion size and nutritional balance, including the balance between protein and carbohydrates; menu creativity and compatibility (in terms of color, flavor, and texture); and the flavor, taste, texture, and doneness of the food (is the sauce the correct flavor for the meat/fish? Is the sauce the correct consistency and smooth?)

The chefs are also judged on sanitation and food handling, proper utilization of ingredients, timing and workflow, and proper utilization of ingredients.

Proclaimed Miller, “We have arrived!  We know what it takes to win the top award. When you win gold, you are the cream of the crop.”

Click here for a Saratogian story on the event.

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