Yale Dining chef aces culinary challenge, moves on to national competition

One of Yale’s own recently threw down iron-chef style at the National Association of College and University Food Services’ Northeast Region Culinary Challenge. Yale chef Vincent Gustavson out-cooked the competition with a reworking of beef stroganoff to take home a gold medal and best-in-show award. The regional competition was held on March 18 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Yale chef Vincent Gustavson at the regional competition.

The National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) recognizes “outstanding food preparation and presentation skills in collegiate dining services.” Each year, the organization holds a nationwide food challenge competition. Competitors have 60 minutes to prepare an original hot entrée featuring a mandatory protein selection (in this case, buffalo flank steak), side dishes, and sauces to create a “balanced plate.” Sauces must be made from scratch, and no advance cooking or preparation is allowed.

Gustavson, a second cook at Berkeley Dining Hall, deconstructed the classic sautéed beef stroganoff recipe* and redesigned it into a beef roulade, a dish where the meat is formed into a roll, ideal for dipping into the sauce that the chef refined and served on the side. Instead of placing the roulade over rice or pasta, Gustavson served it over chestnut spätzle.

“To top it all off,” says Gustavson, “I sautéed fresh mushrooms and served them with the stroganoff along with shaved carrots and romanesco, a new variety of vegetable in the broccoli-cauliflower family.”

The winning dish.

Gustavson now moves on to the national competition, which will be held on July 23 at the J.W. Marriot in Indianapolis, Indiana, during the national NACUFS conference. There he will showcase his culinary artistry among the best collegiate chefs in the country, representing not only Yale, but also the Northeast region.

“This recognition of Vincent reflects well on all of Yale Dining and I’m confident that he will come home a winner again,” says Rafi Taherian, Yale Dining director. “We wish him well at the national competition.”

* Beef stroganoff is generally beef cut into thin strips, sautéed very quickly, then finished with mushrooms, brown sauce, mustard and sour cream.  It is often served over rice or pasta.

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