Rob Landolphi, culinary operations manager in the department of dining services, spoke about the 21st Annual Culinary Olympics at the University of Connecticut, changes that had to be made and the results of the competition.
Landolphi began by laying out the timeline of the competition in years prior. The typical events consist of a recipe competition, team cooking competitions and various presentations to public attendees.
“Normally the event is in January at the Rome Ballroom at South Campus and is open to the public. The morning is a recipe competition and the afternoon is our version of the Iron Chef/Chopped competition called Boiling Point… We also have had a bakery presentation… showcasing different breads and cakes as well as a how-to-decorate-a-cake using spatulas and pastry bags,” Landolphi said.
Landolphi acknowledged that the event could not run as it typically had in years prior. He said they decided to only hold the Boiling Point competition while also changing how it was run.
“Obviously, with the pandemic, we had to take safety precautions and weren’t able to hold the event where it would be open to the public, where large crowds would gather, so we decided to go with just the Boiling Point competition but a much smaller version,” Landolphi said. “We used our innovation lab where five teams competed, and it was filmed by our marketing department who will edit it and use it on social media next semester.”
Landolphi also said competitors were allowed access to more resources this year. In contrast to years prior, the competitors had access to full kitchens, something he believed led to greater creativity.
“In the past, the teams were only allowed to use two camp stoves on two eight-foot tables to produce the dishes,” Landolphi said. “This time, they were able to use a full kitchen with range, ovens, fryers, steamers, etc. This allowed the teams to be much more creative and execute amazing dishes.”
Landolphi said one particular challenge was ensuring teams did not find out about the secret ingredients of lamb chops, lentils, cold brew coffee concentrate, a pre-wrapped Jimmy Dean sausage, egg and cheese bagel, mandarin oranges and celery root before their designated time. It required proper coordination of the teams’ schedules to limit the possibility of their finding out about the ingredients.
“[The greatest difficulty was] Coordinating and scheduling the five teams to compete with scheduled times over two days while keeping the mystery basket ingredients a secret,” Landolphi said.
The results of this year’s competition are as follows: Gelfenbien’s Donna Johnston, Lucinda Simms and Curtis Bangs received 3rd place, The Bistro’s Sean Hawkins, John Coutant and Joyce Essary received 2nd place and Catering’s Amanda Flynn, Jeremy Quintana and Kathy Halgren received first place.