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Food Services executive chef wins top honors

A gold medal was awarded to Campus Dining Executive Chef Masa Yamashita, who represented The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga at ARAMARK’s annual Culinary Excellence Competition held recently at the University of the South in Sewanee. Yamashita’s “East Meets West” themed entry included Southern Fried Quail and Stuffed Tiger Shrimp. By winning the regional semifinal round, which included chefs from Tennessee and Mississippi, Yamashita will join a team of two other top chefs to compete in ARAMARK’s national culinary competition in New Orleans, LA.

“I look forward to representing UTC in future competition,” says Yamashita. His win comes on the heels of Yamashita’s second place finish at the Kidney Foundation of Chattanooga’s Taste of Chattanooga special event earlier this month.

ARAMARK Higher Education hosts the annual cooking challenge each year. ARAMARK chefs from across the country are invited to compete to showcase the wealth of culinary talent working in different kitchens throughout Higher Education.

The chefs were required to prepare an entrée, a main course, and a dessert for judging. Each chef provided his or her own ingredients and was given four hours to prepare all dishes for judging. As the participants created the most visually appealing and pallet pleasing dishes possible, the kitchen was a virtual ballet of frying pans, spatulas, open flames, and blended sweets. All the cooks worked down to the final second wiping down plates and adjusting garnishment to create a dish that looked as good as it tasted.

Six judges, consisting of ARAMARK executives and University of the South faculty, were served portions of each item prepared. The judges openly discussed each dish as it was sampled and then marked their score sheets, unaware of the chef who was responsible for each creation. Items were judged on four criteria: serving methods and presentation, portion size and nutritional balance, creativity and practicality, and flavor.

Yamashita had to prepare and submit his recipes and ingredients in advance of the event. His winning menu included Southern Fried Quail with Asian Slaw, Tofu and Lump Crab Stuffed Tiger Shrimp, Rice Pudding with a Ginger-Pineapple Compote, and a Lemongrass-Mascarpone Soufflé with Blueberry Lemon Sauce.

Yamashita was awarded an engraved meat clever, a trophy, and a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana to represent UTC in the national competition in July.

March 30, 2007