SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Skidmore College culinary team earned its seventh consecutive gold medal for culinary excellence at an American Culinary Federation competition at the College on Friday, Jan. 10.
Skidmore’s Dining Services organizes the annual competition to provide staff development, raise the standards of culinary excellence on campus and highlight Skidmore’s noted dining program.
“Skidmore’s Dining team has made sure they got this competition perfect from day one. They do their research and are committed to improving every year,” said James G. Rhoads III, an executive chef, who served as a judge at the ninth annual competition. “Skidmore is at the top of the curve in terms of promoting sustainability, utilizing local products and listening to student needs and ideas.”
Each of the nine teams— representing institutions from across New York and Massachusetts — was tasked with preparing a four-course menu based on the same ingredients. The ingredients, which remained secret until the afternoon before the competition kicked off, included Cornish game hens, lobster, vegan pepperoni, pork tenderloin, Napa cabbage, oyster mushrooms, kale, artichokes, Peruvian sweet potatoes, couscous, red quinoa, blood oranges, pomegranates, dried apricots, persimmons, hazelnuts and blue cheese.
Each team was allotted 15 minutes to plan and then just two hours and 15 minutes to prepare and plate creative, delicious and visually appealing dishes.
Skidmore’s team included chefs Joe Greco, Ron Wall, Shelly Carpenter and Aaron Buff. Its gold-medal winning menu featured:
- Appetizer: Wine-poached Maine lobster salad; citrus-marinated artichokes, Napa slaw with blood oranges and shaved fennel; and a couscous and blood orange vinaigrette.
- Entrée: Pan-roasted roulade of Cornish game hen stuffed with kale and apricots; Peruvian yam and Ballston blue cheese galette; and sautéed oyster mushrooms with a pomegranate reduction sauce.
- Dessert: Hazelnut financier; citrus pastry cream, blood orange pomegranate curd and macerated persimmon salad.
- Buffet: Spice-rubbed pork tenderloin; quinoa and potato hash featuring vegan pepperoni, Napa cabbage stir-fry and a blue cheese butter sauce.
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Medals were awarded based on a point system. Skidmore College, Bonnie Briar Country Club and Cornell University each won gold. SUNY Albany and SUNY Geneseo earned silver, and the remaining four teams — Williams College, Tufts University, St. Lawrence University and SUNY Cobleskill — took home bronze medals.
A panel of professional chefs judged the competition. Judges included lead judge Victor Sommo, CEC; Dale Miller, CMC, WGMC, AAC; Walter S. Zuromski, CEC, CCE; Michael Morgan, CEC, AAC; Michael Stamets, CEC; James G. Rhoads III, CEC, AAC; and apprentice judge John Noble Masi. Scoring accounted for originality, taste and presentation, timing, teamwork, skills, sanitation, overall preparation and utilization of food.
“This competition offers a unique opportunity for professional development through a fun, but challenging event. Everyone is here to learn and work together,” said Mark Miller, director of Dining Services at Skidmore. “Just being a part of the action builds morale and a deep sense of pride among our staff.”
“What our team comes away from this event is energy. The whole staff, not just those competing, is energized,” added Jim Rose, Skidmore’s executive chef. “We always aim to carry that sense of excitement and creativity into the next semester when our students arrive back to campus.”
Skidmore’s Dining Services has achieved wide recognition. In addition to this competition, Skidmore travels to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst each summer to compete in a similar ACF-sanctioned competition, where it has also won gold medals for the past five years.
Skidmore was also recently ranked No. 4 for Best College Food in New York in 2020 by Niche.com based on meal plan costs and student reviews. Top-ranked colleges offer outstanding on-campus dining and provide easy access to healthy, quality food across a wide range of cuisines and dietary preferences.