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Skidmore College

Culinary gold

January 29, 2018
by Julia Marco

At Skidmore, creativity abounds and the college's dining program is no exception. And as "a kitchen is the heart of the home," it's no surprise to find that Skidmore's culinary team nourishes its "home" with creative flair and award-winning ingenuity.

Gold medal meals five years in a row

Skidmore's dining services team recently earned its fifth consecutive gold medal for culinary excellence in an American Culinary Federation (ACF) sanctioned competition Jan. 12 at Skidmore's Murray-Akins dining hall. The Chopped-like competition pitted Skidmore against 11 colleges and universities from throughout the northeast. Each team was challenged to create original meals from identical ingredients under strict time and style limitations.

Joe Greco, Bryan Bidwell, Donovan Preston, Paul Karlson
Joe Greco, left, Bryan Bidwell, Donovan Preston and Paul Karlson

Chefs Bryan Bidwell, Joe Greco, Paul Karlson and Donovan Preston led their team through the competition by preparing a four-course meal for a panel of two certified master chefs. The Skidmore team's efforts earned the highest total points to garner the gold medal, a testament to the chefs' dedication to refining their creative chops.

"The annual competition allows our staff an opportunity to enhance their knowledge while also expanding their practical culinary skills," said Mark Miller, director of dining services. "It's important that our staff are actively learning and testing new recipes that can eventually be incorporated into Skidmore's menus."

You can read more about the ACF competition in regional news coverage by the Times Union, Saratogian, Post Star and

The team was also recently recognized with two other awards:

A listing among the Best College Food in 2017 (second only to the Culinary Institute of America) by

Creative culinary expression

The team's enthusiasm and collaboration have also earned high marks in the Skidmore community. While national accolades have become a near-regular occurrence, the chefs' talents truly come to life in a few of Skidmore's beloved dining traditions:

Directions to wizarding food displays at "An Evening with Muggles", a Harry Potter-inspired theme dinner

Theme dinners

Rated by students as one of their favorite campus traditions, Skidmore's theme dinners are evenings of fun and adventure. More than just a custom menu, theme dinners pull out all the production stops with elaborate stage setups, detailed decor, and to the joy of many, a few devoted dining services members in costume.

Past themes have stretched imaginations and transported diners to worlds of fantasy and exploration, from Alice in Wonderland to Harry Potter. A recent dinner, Pirates and Mermaids, was nationally recognized by the Horton Dining Awards, held by the National Association of College & University Food Services.

Theme dinners "always offer a lot of great interaction with students," said Frank Esposito, dining services production manager. "There are a lot of moving parts that really get us going. It's pretty cool how it all comes together."

Jennifer Natyzak, sustainability coordinator (left), Ajani Otieno-Rudek '20 (center), and Natalie Cassello '21 prepare the Harvest Dinner with ingredients from the community garden.

Harvest Dinner

It takes a unique blend of art and science to plan, grow and cultivate a garden. At Skidmore, student volunteers take it a step further with their own garden, supplying more than 1,000 pounds of organic produce to the dining hall each year.

The Harvest Dinner, a much-anticipated annual event, brings students together to pick produce from the on-campus garden and work with dining services chefs to host a meal celebrating the sustainable bounty.

A Skidmore student helps prepare a special chicken and waffles entree during Waffelfest.


How many ways can you prepare a breakfast? Skidmore's Wafflefest, a free de-stressing breakfast offered the night before finals begin, goes far beyond bacon and eggs. From Belgian waffles and berry compote to a colorful array of dessert pizzas and more, it's a feast for the eyes (and the stomach).

Waffles aren't only for our culinary teams though, Adam Weinreb '20 has dreamed up seven more waffle dishes based on the dining hall classic.

Looking for more Skidmore culinary inspiration? Check out:

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