Mantz Wins Penn State Culinary Challenge

Friday, December 16, 2016

On December 15, as the South Food District bustled with students grabbing lunch and studying for finals, one section of Redifer Dining Commons was busy with another activity: the Penn State Culinary Challenge. Sponsored by the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS), the annual challenge begins with an initial cook-off at each participating school that follows the American Culinary Federation's competition guidelines and features a mandatory ingredient that is determined by NACUFS.

This year, the mandatory ingredient, provided by NACUFS, was a bone-in pork loin. Five contestants from University Park and several commonwealth campuses worked proficiently at their cooking stations, creating signature dishes from their original recipes.

The winner was Satchel Mantz, a cook at the Bryce Jordan Center. Mantz's dish featured a salt-crusted pork chop with apple chutney, carrot and brown butter puree, cauliflower medallions, and sauteed brussel sprout leaves.

Competitors had 60 minutes, with ten additional minutes for plating, to prepare four portions of an original hot entree featuring the mandatory ingredient, side dishes, and sauces. Chefs cooked at their stations in timed increments until all chefs had completed their hour of cooking and delivered their dish to the judges' table.

Judging the cook-off were Penn State staff members Bill Laychur, corporate executive chef for Culinary Support Services; Melissa Hendricks, registered dietitian; and Jim Richard, assistant director of Residential Food Services. Judges evaluated the culinary creations based on criteria including organization, cooking skills/technique, flavor, texture, nutritional balance, and presentation.

Mark Kowalski, executive chef for Culinary Support Services, coordinated the event, which has been held at University Park as well as various commonwealth campuses annually since 2002. "A lot of hard work goes into planning and hosting the challenge," he says. "We're grateful to the South Food District staff for hosting this wonderful event in their unit."

Competitors included cooks and managing chefs from University Park, commonwealth campuses, and the Bryce Jordan Center. Following is a list of competitors and the dishes they prepared:

David Anderson - Pollock Dining Commons - Apple Cider Pork Chop, Smoked Cheddar and Corn Spoon Bread, Vegetable Hash

Kyle Coverdale - Penn State Behrend - Pan Roasted Pork Chop with Garlic Sausage, Polenta, Pears, Pecans

Zach Lorber - Penn State Altoona - Cider Brined, Smoked Pork Chop with Butternut Squash Hash

Satchel Mantz - Bryce Jordan Center - Salt Crusted Pork Rib Chop with Apple Chutney, Carrot and Brown Butter Puree, Cauliflower Medallions, Sauteed Brussel Sprout Leaves

Paul Motter - Penn State Harrisburg - Braised Pork Chop alla Puttanesca, Basil Ricotta Gnocchi, Sauteed Broccoli Rabe, Pesto

This year's culinary challenge was Mantz's second as a contestant. "I love the stress of the competition, the creativity of coming up with an original dish," he says. "I still can't believe I won. All the judges' critiques were spot on--I have to get the carrots to puree better, I have to have more control with the butter. I'm going to have to memorize their comments to get ready to take my dish to regionals."

Based on feedback from the judges, Mantz will tweak his recipe and represent Penn State in the NACUFS Mid Atlantic Regional Conference Culinary Challenge in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, in March 2017.