UVU Culinary Arts students surpassed judges’ expectations last month at the American Culinary Federation’s fall competition. Three approved judges from Nevada, Missouri and California came to UVU to judge the students’ culinary abilities. Students were awarded two gold medals, 12 silver, 21 bronze and 3 certificates of achievement.
Although the ACF offers multiple competition categories, the fall competition was based on the participant’s ability to serve and prepare hot food. Students chose to prepare an entrée that featured either fish, antelope, rabbit, lobster, pork, chicken or lamb. They had 10 minutes to prepare and 60 minutes to cook their entrées.
Participants were also asked to make two portions of each entrée to be judged separately based on appearance and flavor. Due to the art of culinary practices, the award system works uniquely for ACF competitions.
A gold medal represents a perfect dish with no flaws in design, flavor, or preparation. Participants compete against a national standard, allowing for more than one winner in each medal category.
“This competition takes a lot of vigorous work that can be mentally and emotionally straining,” Chef Instructor Todd Leonard said. “It’s extremely difficult to prepare and cook an entire entrée in such a limited amount of time. However, through it all, students see how much value they’ve gained in experience and dedication. That’s why we do this competition; it teaches them how to be a real chef.”
For some students, the competition was more than just a chance at winning a gold medal. Participation in the competition is a requirement for Leonard’s students because of how well it demonstrates the demands and competencies of a professional chef. The grade these students obtained in the competition also reflected on their final grade.
Students also competed against teams from the Art Institute of Salt Lake and Salt Lake Community College, resulting in a team from UVU claiming the Utah state title. That team will go on to represent UVU at the AFC western regional competition in the spring. The school with the winning team will go on to compete at the national competition for the title of ACF Student Team National Champions.
“Our students continue to prove they are some of the best in the country,” said Peter Sproul, chair of UVU’s Culinary Arts Institute. “This particular team put in hundreds of hours of preparation, and now we’re really excited about their chances at the regional competition. I fully expect them to do great at the national championships, too. They are exactly the type of quality students who represent UVU and the Culinary Arts Institute so well.”
UVU’s culinary students have come a long way since the first gold medal was won in 2008. In 2011, Leonard took home the title of Western Regional Chef of the Year. That same year, another student was named Student Chef of the Year. As students and educators continue to strive for excellence, more national attention is directed toward the culinary arts program at UVU.