Platinum Chef Competition Held at Mount Union

March 11, 2009

Larissa Kuhel chops bacon during the contestThere's more that brings out the competitive nature of Mount Union College students than Purple Raider football, which was once again proven at the annual Platinum Chef competition held in the cafeteria of Hoover Price Campus Center Thursday night.

For the third year, students wanting to try their best Emeril, Rachael Ray or Gordon Ramsey imitation were given the opportunity to sign up for the competition which pits five-person teams of students against each other -- each one paired with an AVI sous chef.

A week before the event, the students found out the secret ingredient would be bacon, which they would have to use in preparation of at least three courses of delectable food. It wasn't until Thursday, however, that they found out exactly what other ingredients they would have for their dishes.

At 7 p.m., the 25 contestants turned from college students into chefs by donning white chef coats and hats. They also put on their game faces and readied for a fight for the title "Platinum Chef."

"They're way more passionate about it than the alumni," Robert Marx, district manager of AVI FoodSystems said of the students. The college also holds a similar competition for alumni.

Ryan Conatti shows off his cooking skills.Marx said he enjoys watching the students compete in the yearly event, which gives them an opportunity to see just how much work the food preparation is and gives them an appreciation for what the AVI chefs do each day.

When the five teams were given the okay to begin, they had five minutes to "shop" for the ingredients from an array foods. They then headed to their assigned stations and began preparing their dishes.

It wasn't long before the smell of bacon wafted through the area as teams worked nonstop for two hours to prepare their selections before presenting them to a four-judge panel. June Porter, of the alumni office, volleyball coach Leigh Ann Matesich, HR Director Pam Newbold and her husband, Bob, had the difficult task of scoring the teams on creativity, taste, presentation, sanitation and team work. They judges walked from station to station to observe the teams as they worked before the presentations were given one group at a time.Ty Griffin cuts a pork loin as teammate Tom Kelly looks on. They are members of the winning team.

The first group, which consisted of Justin Brew, John Gallo, Ryan Conatti, Kate McConnell, Ryan Maclennan and chef Doug Shreve, impressed the judges with homemade bacon ravioli.

Team two of Anna Jones, Aubree Jones, Andrew Alspaugh, Marc Aukerman and Annie Patton was the only team without a chef. When their assigned chef was called out for the birth of his baby, the team opted to go chefless rather than join other teams. Despite the disadvantage, they were able to wow the judges with mini bacon cheeseburgers on English muffins.

The third team was led by chef Brian Gulu and included Dustin Ford, Matt Dieterich, Ty Griffin, Tom Kelly and Justin Meeson. Their menu included seared pork chops and bacon wrapped apples that left the judges wanting more.

Kelsey Lutro, Megan Smuckler, Emily Reichard, Emily Saracusa and Larissa Kuhel of team four were assisted by chef Nick Macheca. Judges raved about the team's unusual dark chocolate bacon cupMembers of the winning Team Three.cakes with chocolate frosting.

The final group of Cory Bostick, Julie Becker, Nina Bostick, Kelly Emery and Emily Kominko was led by chef Joe Jacobs.

After the groups were scored, Jacobs announced that team three was the winner which resulted in a burst of excitement, cheers and high-fives. The winners then received baskets which included a cutting board and knife set as their prize.

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