Syracuse Chef of the Year award goes to former college, hospital chef

Tom Kiernan spent much of his professional cooking career at institutions like colleges and hospitals. He's heard the jokes, especially about hospital food.

"I always say nothing is going to taste good if you're laying on your back with pain meds and other meds corrupting your taste buds," said Kiernan, whose most recent position was senior executive system chef for the Compass Group, providing food services for University Hospital/Upstate Medical, The Golisano Children's Hospital, Community General Hospital and others in the region. "The food does have the correct amount of salt and fat you SHOULD be eating, of course."

The folks in the hospitals don't know what they're missing. Kiernan is an accomplished chef and kitchen administrator -- and a dedicated member of the local chapter of the American Culinary Federation, a national group that promotes the education and certification of professional chefs.

Kiernan, of Homer, has been named the Syracuse ACF chapter's 2015 Chef of the Year. That award goes each year to the local chapter member who has "demonstrated the highest standard of culinary skills, advanced the cuisine of America and given back to the profession through the development of future chefs."

Other awards announced by the local ACF for 2015: Eamon Lee, an executive chef for Maines Paper & Food Service, won the award for "chef professionalism." The award for "inspiring chef" goes to Will Lewis, a semi-retired personal chef and former employee of Compass Group, where among other duties he served as executive corporate chef at Welch-Allyn in Skaneateles.

All three will be honored at the annual ACF Syracuse Award Dinner, to be held June 29 at the Crown Plaza Hotel (Redfield's).

Kiernan's resume is impressive: He cooked professionally at several restaurants and companies -- and even a research station in Bermuda. In 1992, he and his wife, Mary, (a past ACF chef of the year), opened Elm Street Cafe & Catering in Cortland.

After it closed in 2004, Tom Kiernan worked a a chef for SUNY Cortland, before entering the hospital field with Morrison Healthcare (a division of Compass), eventually overseeing food preparation for Upstate. In his last job, which he left this year, he ran food operations for a system of 12 hospitals in New York and Pennsylvania.

Since leaving Compass Group, he's been acting as a consultant, including work with CORE, the new North Syracuse "healthy lifestyle" restaurant that has ambitions of becoming a national chain.

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