UMass chef captures NACUFS Culinary Challenge

Matthia Accurso, a chef at the University of Massachusetts, in Amherst, captured a gold medal and took first place in the 2014 Culinary Challenge staged at the annual conference of the National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS).

Accurso won the title with his Slow Cooked Lobster with Lobster Kale Tortellini, Citrus Glazed Carrots, Celery Root and Fennel Butter Sauce. Accurso represented the Northeast region of NACUFS. The event tasked chefs with featuring lobster as the protein in their dishes.

Thomas Schraa, catering chef at the University of Maryland, in College Park, who represented the Mid-Atlantic Region, also won a gold medal for his Lobster Stew. But Accurso edged him out by “the slimmest of margins,” according to the ACF judges for the event.

Silver medals went to Eric Diaz, sous chef at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, Ed Glebus, associate director and executive chef at San Diego State University, and Martin de Santiago, sous chef at Rice University, in Houston. Diaz, representing the Continental Region, made Warm Butter Poached Lobster. Glebus, representing the Pacific region, prepared Maine Lobster Tournedos Paired with Brant Bacon. Representing the Southern region, De Santiago made Potato Wrapped Lobster with Homemade Lobster Ravioli.

Scott Turley, executive chef at Grinnell College, in Iowa, received a bronze medal for his Lobster For John dish. He represented the Midwest region.

All six chefs had earned the right to compete by winning their regions’ competition. They performed their culinary magic in a Food Network-style atmosphere during the NACUFS Industry Appreciation Reception. Three chefs served as announcers for the two-hour event, keeping spectators up to date on the chefs’ progress while adding tidbits of information about the chefs and their dishes.