Even after winning the Utah state championships, the UVU Culinary Arts program still had more to prove at the Western Regionals in Scottsdale this past weekend.
Win Chef of the Year. Check.
Win a Team Gold Medal. Check.
Student Chef of the Year Medalist. Check.
Quite a weekend, indeed. It started as Todd Leonard, UVU Instructor and Assistant Professor in the UVU Culinary Arts Institute was named as The Chef of the Year in the Western Region. He now advances to the “final four” in Dallas this summer where he will compete against three other Region winners for National Chef of the Year honors. Leonard was able to enter the competition since he also serves as Chef at the Blue Lemon Restaurant in Highland.
“Man, I am so excited. This is the highlight of my career,” Leonard exclaimed moments after the medal was draped around his neck. “This helps elevate the entire culinary program at UVU and helps to show the country that we are really doing some great things.”
Not to be outdone, for the first time in school history the UVU Culinary Arts student team won gold medals at the Western Regionals. The competition, held in Scottsdale, Arizona, featured the best teams from nine states which comprise the West Region of the American Culinary Federation.
It was a two day competition for the team which included making a “cold tray” along with a four course meal which had to be completed in just ninety minutes.
Team members included Andrew Guile, Taehwan Lee, Lyn Wells, Mark Cochran, KJ Francom and Robert Lilly.
Brandon Strebel, 22, a UVU Senior from Sandy, Utah was just one of five student chefs invited to the individual competition. Missing his own UVU graduation ceremony to attend this competition, and despite producing what many knowledgeable observers called “the most amazing” dish of the weekend, Brandon was edged out of first place by the student chef from the Air Force.
“Second place is not too shabby,” said Strebel. “Obviously I wanted the top spot but to be recognized as the second best student chef in the western United States isn’t too bad.”
To round out UVU’s medal count, Chef Franz Kubak, Instructor & Assistant Professor was also awarded a President’s Medallion for distinguished service to the culinary arts world. Chef Franz wins only the 51st medal ever awarded by the ACF President. This award is one of the highest awards given in the culinary world.
“Unbelievable. Just Unbelievable. This is a big deal. This is a really, really big deal,” said Peter Sproul, Department Chair and Instructor at the UVU Culinary Institute. “I’m as proud of these guys as I could possibly be. Let’s face it, Utah isn’t exactly the mecca of the culinary world but right now a lot of folks around the country are shocked at what we just did.”
To see photos of the competition CLICK HERE (then click slideshow)