Source: Athens Banner-Herald
By Lee Shearer March 20, 2012
Bryan Haymans will be cooking Thursday.
Instead of preparing a dish for 5,000 diners, however, the University of Georgia Food Services chef will be cooking for three very important people — the judges for the Culinary Challenge at the National Association of College and University Food Services Southern Region Conference.
Haymans is one of just six chefs from across the Southeast invited for this year’s competition in Nashville, Tenn.
The contestants are picked based on the potential of just one recipe they submit for cooking a common ingredient, which this year is flounder.
“They give us the main ingredient every year, and we then have to come up with something unique,” said Haymans, a UGA graduate who has worked at UGA Food Services 14 years.
Haymans’ recipe is macadamia-crusted flounder with tropical fruit salsa, served with a black rice pilaf and pineapple cream sauce on the side.
Haymans is hoping experience will help him bring back a first-place trophy for UGA, which no one has yet managed.
UGA has had at least one participant in the contest every year since it began in 2001, said UGA Food Services Executive Director Michael Floyd.
None have won the regional competition, which qualifies the winner to move on to the national finals in July.
Some UGA chefs have come close, however, including Haymans, who has now been picked five times for the regional competition.
Haymans placed third in 2004 and 2007. In 2003, he was second, just a point behind that year’s regional winner.
Contestants have to set up, whip up their meals, dish the flounder up attractively and clean up in 80 minutes while a live audience watches them prepare four dishes — one each for three judges and another for display.
Haymans will be competing against chefs from Rice University, Texas A&M University, Kennesaw State University, the University of North Texas and Oklahoma State University.
His flounder will be judged for more than taste.
“You have to know your knife skills well,” Haymans said. The chefs also score (or lose) points for originality, sanitation, presentation and even, Haymans suspects, the height of the entree.
“Height seems to pop out to the judges,” said Haymans, who oversees UGA’s largest dining Hall, Bolton Dining Commons.