Camaraderie and Inspiration

FoodService Director - What I Learned - James Rose - Skidmore College - Camaraderie and InspirationJames Rose, executive chef at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was one of more than 100 chefs that attended the 13th annual Chefs’ Conference at UMass. Rose speaks about what he and his team gained from the week-long conference.

FoodService Director - What I Learned - James Rose - Skidmore College - Camaraderie and InspirationThis past June, James Rose joined more than 100 chefs from 80 colleges and universities for a week-long series of lectures, demonstrations and competitions designed to hone the skills of the men and women who serve students on a regular basis. Rose talks about what he came away with from the event.

“The first year I went with two other cooks from Skidmore, and then this past year I brought three people with me. We came back with a lot of new ideas, new recipes that we implemented in our program. For us, the benefit was learning about the different flavor profiles and new ideas in general. I like the fact that it is mostly a hands-on conference, too. We learned a lot more than if we were just sitting in a classroom.

What made me want to return this year was the theme of the conference, with sustainability and introducing new global flavors. That’s basically what we’re trying to do at Skidmore. I was interested in learning new ideas about ethnic cuisines. Prior to this year we’ve been all about basics. For instance, if we offered Asian it was primarily Chinese or Japanese. I wanted to learn more about Indian—we have a tandoor oven, and I was interested in trying to put that piece of equipment to better use. I’m also eager to learn more about ingredients, where you get the different flavor profiles from different regions.

We’re in the process of adding sushi to our menu and that has been a challenge for me as an executive chef as to how we’re going to do that. Just seeing what UMass is doing with their program and having a sushi demonstration definitely helped. I got to work with Chef Jet Tila on sushi and with Chef Suvir Saran on Indian. Those were the two primary workshops for me because they absolutely fit with what we’re trying to do here.

Plus, there was the general networking. The itinerary of options was attractive. We  met a lot of interesting chefs and directors, and the guest speakers were excellent. And we had an open forum, where we talked about topics like sustainability, getting more involved with such issues. Hearing what my fellow chefs’ issues are and sharing what our issues are, that’s a great learning experience.

Participating in the culinary competition was new to us. We were fortunate because we were added to the list at the last minute. The competition is important because it helps sharpen our edges as chefs. I thought it would be really good for the individuals on my team to bring them to a new level. It was excellent to have them work in the same kitchen facility with other chefs, just to see what other colleges are really doing out there. The main thing we learned was practice, practice practice—and timing. It really was very inspiring. All the chefs came back psyched, wanting to do it again next year.

My culinary background is primarily from restaurants, and that’s what I think college foodservice has become. At Skidmore, I look at our operation as being six small restaurants in one space. You have to market them, you have to keep on top of your food quality. The chemistry has to be there; you have to always be ready to change up your menu because you have a captive audience here, five or seven days a week, and they expect change.”



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