Harvard University Hospitality & Dining Services’ (HUHDS) chefs took first place and prestigious American Culinary Federation (ACF) gold medals at the 17th Annual Chef Culinary Conference in Amherst, Mass., on June 17. The Team Mystery Basket competition is the only ACF-sanctioned event of its kind in the United States.
HUHDS’ four-person team of Martin Breslin, Benjamin Cevelo, Arlene Richburg, and Donn Leonard had 40 minutes, after receiving their mystery basket, to write a menu for a three-course meal for four and a buffet platter for 10. They then had three hours to execute the meal, and 30 minutes to plate and present it to the judges.
“Our HUHDS team, led by Chef Breslin, well represented the extraordinary creativity and culinary skills at Harvard,” says HUHDS’ Interim Director David P. Davidson. “Chef Breslin led a group with little prior competition experience, but great teamwork mentality, to deliver a gold-medal meal.”
The competition mystery basket contained whole roasted chicken, whole trout, raw shrimp, bone-in pork loin, Roma tomatoes, green beans, spinach, fennel, Brussels sprouts, red peppers, apples, pears, strawberries, and mozzarella. The menu had to incorporate every ingredient from the basket. Kitchen facilities were stocked with equipment and common ingredients to augment the mystery ingredients.
Points were given for menu and ingredient compatibility; flavor, taste, texture and doneness; culinary and cooking technique; and various areas of execution.