Last month, Sewanee Dining Sous Chef Martel Gray participated in the Culinary Challenge as part of the National Association of College and University Food Service regional conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And at the end of his first-ever culinary competition, Chef Martel brought a bronze medal back to campus!
Almost 40 chefs from across the country applied for a chance to compete, but only six were chosen to face off in the competition at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. This year, these chefs were challenged to create an original dish centered around a bone-in pork loin, demonstrating classic techniques, organization of their stations, and most importantly, incredible flavors.
Chef Martel developed his recipe in December and began practicing in January, and had the chance to cook his competition meal for a University dinner event earlier this year. Although he has likely often walked through McClurg Dining Hall at the lunch rush hour (not for the faint of heart), Chef Martel noted that the hundreds of people milling about as he prepared his competition plates produced “quite the spectacle”—and the lights and cameras didn’t help! Chef Martel was the first competitor to begin cooking, with others starting in 15-minute increments. He was not fazed by the task, but instead viewed it as an opportunity. “I was the first one to start, so I got to set the tone,” the chef said. “As people come in, they’re smelling my food first, building the momentum of the day.”
“This is just the beginning,” promised Chef Martel. “I wanted to represent the University well, and I think I did.” Congratulations, Chef!
- Maria Baker, C’18