UNT Chef Sarah Kettelhut takes first place at NACUFS Culinary Challenge

temp-post-imageThe University of North Texas women’s basketball team wasn’t the only member of the Mean Green to pick up a big win on Thursday. UNT Dining Services Chef Sarah Kettelhut was also victorious as she totaled 84 points to finish in first place out of eight competitors and earn a silver medal at the NACUFS (National Association of College and University Food Services) Culinary Challenge.

The event was part of the association’s Southern Regional Conference, which was hosted by UNT Dining Services on March 6-8 at the nearby Embassy Suites by Hilton Denton Convention Center.

Competitors were given a total of 80 minutes, including 60 minutes to prepare and cook the meal. Chefs were assessed on two areas: kitchen/floor evaluation and service/tasting evaluation. Each of these components was broken into different areas, which were scored individually. The kitchen and tasting scores were added to yield a maximum score of 100 points. Medals were awarded based on the number of points earned.

Chefs were required to prepare a dish utilizing three main ingredients – clams, oysters and squid. Kettelhut’s original dish, named the Ocean Wave, was comprised of Rhode Island clams in bacon cream, sautéed squid and crispy gremolata oysters with potato ribbons and Swiss chard sauté.

Kettelhut said she wanted to use ingredients that were familiar to Rhode Island. She attributes the win to her secret weapon, the Swiss chard that was grown on campus at Mean Green Café’s hydroponic garden by Chef Cris Williams.

Kettelhut was competing for just the second time on Thursday, but it was her first solo event. Last year, she teamed with UNT chefs Scott Bullock, Pierre Thilliez, and John Mercer to earn a silver medal at an American Culinary Federation (ACF) competition at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

“Competing is a beast,” said Kettelhut. “It takes a lot of passion, overthinking, and hard work. You respectfully take the advice from other chefs and judges but in the end, you have to follow your own heart. It is so much preparation and then, it’s over in the blink of an eye.”

Thanks to her win at the regional challenge, Kettelhut has earned a spot in the NACUFS National Culinary Challenge. She will square off against five other regional winners on July 11 in Providence, Rhode Island.

“I’m excited to compete at the national competition,” Kettelhut said. “Hopefully I can bring back a gold medal and first place to UNT.”

About UNT Dining Services
UNT Dining is the largest self-supported food service department in North Texas. With our 22 retail food shops, five cafeterias, a full-service restaurant, and a catering department, we serve nearly five million meals annually. Our food service program is award-winning and has been recognized nationally by organizations like Food Service Director Magazine, Physician’s Council for Responsible Medicine, and PETA. We are also the recipient of the prestigious Loyal E. Horton Award from the National Association of College and University Food Services. In 2011, Mean Greens Café opened as the first all-vegan university dining hall in the country. For more information, visit http://www.dining.unt.edu/.