Culinary staff finds silver success at chef competition

An SAC culinary crew served up a silver-medal win at the Canadian College and University Food Service Association (CCUFSA) Chef’s Competition.
 
Executive Chef Davide Ponton led the team through the fierce competition. He, along with sous chef Bert Yeung and supervising cook Neil Pollon, and SAC maître d' Mary Ann Joaquin, worked a couple of very long, very hectic days during the competition, which took place during the CCUFSA annual conference, held this year at Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood, ON.
 
This was the first time St. Andrew’s has competed in this challenge. SAC was up against a culinary team from Trent University (Peterborough, ON; student population 9,000) as well as a team from UMass Dining (University of Massachusetts in the United States, student population 30,000).
 
The theme was Summer Vacation, and Davide said the team chose to focus on food you’d eat on a Northern Ontario adventure, perfect timing since the competition took place during the Canada Day long weekend.
 
One highlight of the menu was the use of sumac in the barbecue sauce; for dessert they served a dish that started with local strawberries.
 
But as anyone in the food business knows, presentation is key. “A lot of thought went into the table setting – we even had recorded bird sounds playing,” Davide said.
 
In keeping with the theme, the display included a campfire with flames fashioned out of isomalt, a sugar substitute used in sugar art. Transporting this “fire” was a challenge because any moisture or temperature extremes would cause the hardened sugar to melt or break down. They went so far as to pack it with silicone beads to absorb excess moisture in order to keep the sugar flames dry during the drive from Aurora to Blue Mountain.
 
It was an exhausting two days. The team worked 13 hours on Thursday, June 28 preparing for the competition followed by a 15-hour day on Friday, June 29 for the presentation and judging. In addition to preparing the three-course meal for judging by three executive chefs from across Canada, Davide and crew also had to serve 250 people, then clean up, then pack for the return trip to campus.
 
“They worked exceptionally hard for months, all the while feeding the school and catering special events, said Grace Wyvill, Director of food Services at St. Andrew’s  The team was busy experimenting with recipes while staying within a strict budget since learning of the theme back in March.
 
During this culinary adventure, the rest of the Food Service department, led by Joanne McIntyre, was catering the wedding of an Old Boy in Staunton Gallery.

Story by Julie Caspersen
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St. Andrew's College
15800 Yonge Street, Aurora, ON L4G 3H7 Canada
Tel: 905-727-3178