News Date: 
Monday, March 17, 2014

Source: Red & Black

If facing a live lobster in the kitchen is not scary enough, two University of Georgia chefs will do just that in front of an audience when they compete against chefs from other universities in a regional culinary challenge later this month.

Don Law, chef at Snelling Dining Commons, and Tim Neal, chef at Oglethorpe Dining Commons, will travel to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Okla., to compete in the Culinary Challenge at the National Association of College and University Food Services Southern Region Conference on March 26.

The NACUFS Culinary Challenge recognizes outstanding food preparation and presentation skills in collegiate food service programs throughout the country, according to a UGA Today press release.

Chefs from competing universities must submit a photo and description of their dish to the regional chair of NACUFS to enter the competition. Chefs are selected based on the originality, presentation, cooking methods and nutritional analysis of their dishes, according to the release.

“We received 16 submissions this year, but only accepted six,” said Dewey McMurrey, CEC for the Culinary Challenge in the southern region conference of NACUFS and hospitality services executive chef at Texas Tech University.McMurrey said chefs from Georgia Southern University, Rice University, Texas Tech University and Vanderbilt University will also compete in the region challenge.

Chefs will have 80 minutes to complete their dishes in the competition. They will have five minutes to set their stations, 60 minutes to cook, 10 minutes to plate four dishes and five minutes to clean and exit their stations, according to the release. Competing chefs will prepare a dish containing a predetermined mandatory ingredient, which, this year, is live lobster. Law said he will prepare lobster pot pie, and Neal said he will prepare lobster cakes. Law said lobster is one of his favorite foods. “I like seafood in general, but there’s just something about lobster,” he said. “I love being able to taste the ocean. I grew up in Florida going to the beach and body surfing and getting that water in your mouth and that saltiness, and lobster and oysters in particular have that flavor to me.” Law said his lobster pot pie is not a traditional pot pie in the sense that it does not have a cream sauce in a pot with the pastry on top, but instead, the pastry and ingredients are spread out on the plate to give it more of a visual appeal. “People eat with their eyes,” he said. Presentation is one factor the judges will be looking for when picking a winner. The point system the judges will use to score the competitors will also consider criteria such as organization, sanitation, cooking skills, culinary technique, creativity, portion size, flavor and texture, ingredient compatibility, presentation and nutritional balance, according to the release. McMurrey said the first place winner of each region will advance to the national culinary challenge that will happen in July. He also said their national conference is paid for if they win the regional competition. The competition will be the first cooking competition for both Law and Neal. “I’ve done a lot of cooking classes and demonstrations and things like that over the years, but I’ve never competed in a professional capacity,” Law said. Neal said although this competition is a first for him, he hopes to represent UGA Food Services well. “This is my first time going to one, and I’ve got a lot of learning to do when I get there,” Neal said. “It’s an honor just to be able to go, but I’m going to give it my best shot and make sure I can walk away from it, knowing I did the best I could and hopefully win.”