campus news and events

Sodexo's Regional Chefs Come Together for Culinary Competition

Scents of maple pecan chicken, buffalo shrimp quesadillas, and beef kabobs filled Colby-Sawyer College's Dining Hall, along with a bustling crowd, during a lunchtime culinary competition on Wednesday, March 14. The aromas, atmospheric steam, and, of course, delicious dishes were the products of the eight competing groups of Sodexo chefs, coming together at Colby-Sawyer for a common love of food.

Organized between participant schools Colby Sawyer College, Keene State, Franklin Pierce University, Plymouth State, Norwich University, Daniel Webster College, Southern New Hampshire University, and Rivier College, all constituents of Sodexo's Regional Operations Director Phillip Harty's district, the event served as an occasion for both enjoyment and promotion of nutritional awareness.

Under the competition's guidelines, each group of chefs created a dish involving a specific protein that had been assigned to them. Upon entry into the dining hall, students were each given a ballot with which they could vote for their favorite item. Each school's Sodexo dining service will incorporate the winning dish into their menus. The only other parameters of the challenge stipulated that each dish be made with healthy ingredients and include some organic, locally grown foods.

The stress on nutrition was certainly taken seriously, as each dish boasted local flavors and fresh ingredients such as Plymouth State's Thai Summer Rolls and Norwich University's Vermont Cobb Salad. Southern New Hampshire University utilized fresh maple syrup and lettuce picked the previous morning from Chef Robin Ilsley's third-generation, family-owned farm. In addition to the cook-off itself, local food vendors were stationed in Wheeler Hall to discuss their products.

The chefs' working and serving stations were accompanied by an information booth, adorned with edible potted plants, dedicated to nutritional awareness. As Regional Nutrition Manager Danielle Shargorodsky explains, Sodexo has been responding to new student interest in health and sustainability. With events such as the culinary competition, she believes, students will steadily embrace the notion that “healthy doesn't mean boring.”

The student response to the event was surely far from bored. Stephanie Thibault '12, speaking over din of happy diners, explained, “I think this is great. It's nice to know that Sodexo is listening to feedback and trying new things.” Michael Lepore '12, enjoying Daniel Webster College's pork burger, expressed his pleasure with the event, saying, “I'm having a blast! So many flavors, so little time.”

The students were not alone in enjoying the change of scenery. Executive Chef Rob Garcelon of Rivier College was in high spirits, describing the event as “a time to celebrate food” and a chance for the students to “see the faces behind the food they eat.” Michael Beraskas, executive chef at Southern New Hampshire University, found the event a refreshing experience, explaining that it allows the chefs to “show off some different ideas for menus. It's a chance to be creative.”

The Daniel Webster College team, led by Executive Chef Greg Demers and Sous Chef Derek Sliz, emerged victorious with their pork burger with pancetta, pea tendrils, lingonberry mayonnaise, and Vermont cheddar on a savory ciabatta roll, served with a sweet potato and cranberry salad. Franklin Pierce University's buffalo shrimp quesadilla Caesar salad earned them second place, and Rivier College came in third for their beef kabobs over quinoa and seasonal vegetables.

Having proven a success for the second time, these inter-school culinary competitions, the first of which took place at Rivier College, show a promising future of food and fun for all involved.

-David Hart

David Hart '13 is a student writer for College Communications at Colby-Sawyer College.