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Tufts culinary team wins silver in competition

Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 01:01

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Zhuangchen Zhou / The Tufts Daily

Tufts Central Kitchen and Bakery executive sous chef Toby Hewitt (left) and sous chef Justin Lizotte (right) represented Tufts’ Central Kitchen and Bakery at Skidmore College’s American Culinary Federation (ACF) Culinary Chefs Competition and Conference earlier this month.

Five Tufts chefs won a silver medal at the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Culinary Chefs Competition and Conference earlier this month, impressing a panel of certified judges with a bacon−wrapped rabbit tenderloin, halibut, an apple and butternut squash soup, and other dishes under a strict time limit.

Teams at the competition, held at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, each made an entree, appetizer, soup, salad or dessert and buffet platter out of 14 different ingredients in a mystery basket, all of which have to be incorporated into the meal, according to sous−chef Justin Lizotte, who works alongside the Tufts teammates in the university’s Central Kitchen and Bakery. The team performed well under pressure, Lizotte said.

“I think we were both skeptical about our buffet item, and it just kind of really came together in the last two minutes,” he siad.

Central Kitchen executive chef Frederick Norregaard, who coached the Tufts team but did not participate, said the mystery basket featured a particularly difficult crop of ingredients this year.

“It’s a good learning experience to get you out of your safety bubble,” executive sous chef Toby Hewitt, a member of the Tufts team, said.

Chefs had two hours to create four plates of each of the first three courses and one hour to create the buffet, Hewitt said. The competition had four judges, who were either certified master chefs or certified pastry chefs.

“We’re pretty good at...coming up with an idea and messing with it until it comes together,” he said.

The judges scored courses based on taste, presentation, organization and creativity. They could deduct points for portion size or courses that came in late.

Norregaard said that to prepare for the competition, he created mock mystery baskets beforehand for the Tufts team to practice preparing a meal in a restricted time period. The hard work paid off, he said.

“I think [the team] handled themselves as professionals and did really well,” he said.

This was the competition’s second year, Hewitt said, and the event is growing. While the competition last year only included culinary teams from colleges, two other groups participated this year.

Two other teams won silver medals based on the judges’ point system.

Any group that is a member of the ACF is eligible to participate, but most competitors are local, according to Hewitt.

Hewitt explained that although he does not think there is any intention of extending the number of teams that can compete in the competition, there is talk of making the conference portion of the event longer.

He also said he would enjoy going again next year.

“They’ve said that they want to keep doing it,” Hewitt said. “I think their first year was sort of experimental — see how it worked — and I think it was a success.”

In addition to the competition on Jan. 11, there were several food−related lectures on Jan. 10, according to Hewitt. From sustainability to healthy eating, the conference featured speakers from a variety of culinary specialties.

Director of Dining and Business Services Patti Klos said that she was proud of the Tufts team.

“We certainly would support them if they wanted to go back next year,” she said. “It’s not only a competition, but there’s actually an educational program as well.”

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