On Wednesday, Nov. 14, the University of Massachusetts Boston proved that it can fight back. And we are not talking about Interim Chancellor Katherine Newman’s response to address multiple allegations made in the recent Boston Globe article. This time, UMass Boston was fighting with knives and forks in the epic Battle of the Chefs—an event organized by University Dining Services.
Battle of the Chefs is an annual culinary event sponsored by Sodexo, an outside contractor that oversees all dining services on our campus. In previous years, the event would usually take place in the Campus Center to capture a larger audience of the student population, yet this year, Battle of the Chefs took place inside the new Dining Hall. In comparison to previous years, this culinary competition has been the biggest one ever hosted on campus. Just take a look at the participating schools who came to battle for the best recipe of the night: Boston University, Dean College, Bentley University, Brandeis University, Suffolk University, and of course, UMass Boston. The executive chefs from the represented schools prepared season-inspired dishes for students, staff, and faculty to try.
At the end of the evening, students voted for the most popular dish. With no surprise, the UMass Boston culinary team, led by the executive chef Johanne Legrand, won the Student Choice Award. Legrand and her team prepared a Caribbean-inspired menu, which included empanadas filled with either beef or shrimp, as well as a vegetarian option, with exotic dipping sauces, Haitian beignets, and a passion fruit–inspired mocktail. “Certain ingredients had to be prepared and marinated days in advance; flavorful marinade is a secret to an award-winning dish,” said Johanne Legrand. After all, it was her second year winning the Battle of the Chefs; she won a similar award when she was still an executive chef at Brandeis University right before she transferred to UMass Boston to lead the culinary team in the new Dining Hall.
Along with the students, staff and faculty also cast their votes. They judged the competing schools based on different criteria, ensuring that every participating chef would receive an appropriate award.
Besides the Student Choice Award, UMass Boston’s culinary team was recognized for the Best Table Presentation.
The Best Plate Presentation Award went to Brandeis University for Chef Josh Cushman’s braised short ribs with cider-glazed brussels sprouts, parsnip cream, and a wild mushroom demi-glace.
Bentley University received the award for the Most Creative Execution for roasted shrimp, cooked in a sage, brown butter caramel sauce, nicely rested on a late-fall beet and mushroom salad.
The Best Tasting Dish Award went to Dean College. Their maple Bourbon pork belly with a butternut squash puree and honey-roasted brussels sprout leaves was well received by the UMass Boston community.
Suffolk University was awarded the Best Use of Seasonal Ingredients Award. Their pumpkin-bread French toast, apple cider, and the Harvest fest cookies were, indeed, the essence of the seasonal flavors.
Boston University walked out with the Award for the Best Overall Customer Experience.
Newman also attended the event. Even though her visit was brief, she still tasted each dish, talked to the visiting chefs from the participating schools, and, of course, cast her vote. She also made time to speak to happy students about their overall experience at the event, their dish preferences, and their support for the UMass Boston culinary team.
This year’s Battle of the Chefs was the largest not only by the number of the participating schools, but also in the number of attendees. Over 800 students, faculty, staff, and community members decided to join the event that evening and watch the local version of the Battle of the Chefs in person. “This has been a great event,” said Michael Reilly, the general manager of the University Dining Services, “Not only does it show the strength of the UMass Boston culinary team, it also shows the strength of the whole UMass Boston community, who came together to celebrate and support its home team.”