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Published April 26, 2018
University of Wyoming Washakie Dining Center Chef Mathew Branson won a silver medal (third place) during the regional National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Culinary Challenge last month.
Individual competitors faced off to prepare a creative and appetizing entree that featured a combination of littleneck clams, whole squid and oysters -- all within an hour. Each chef competed for gold, silver or bronze medals, and was judged on organization, cooking skills, culinary technique, taste and style. The American Culinary Federation recognizes the competition results.
Branson’s winning dish, titled “Fruit of the Sea,” included smoked seared calamari, stuffed with citrus clam grits; and accompanied by citrus clam sauce, red wine sauce, fried oysters and crispy tentacles, Cornell grits, a diced root vegetable medley and garnished with allumette orange rind.
“The challenge made me a lot stronger, and I gained a lot of new colleagues,” Branson says about his silver medal. “It’s awesome to see all the chefs take three of the same proteins and each one have a different take on it. It was an adrenaline rush and a very proud moment for me, my family and the Washakie Dining Center.”
He has worked with UW Residence Life and Dining Services (RLDS) for four years.
“Chef Mathew has always inspired a motivational environment and encourages teamwork with fellow Washakie staff members and students,” says Emily Edgar, UW RLDS marketing and campus relations coordinator.
UW RLDS staff attended the NACUFS conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Branson was selected to compete in the culinary challenge.
Branson trained for months leading up to the challenge with his mentors, RLDS dining Director Reggie Conerly and Associate Director Becce Ford, crafting the perfect dish to prepare during the competition.
“This was an exciting time for Chef Mathew and Washakie Dining Center,” Ford says. “Chef Mathew demonstrated his skills to the greatest of his ability and put in a lot of time and hard work. We are very proud of him and his accomplishment. Third place is great for his first time competing.”
The NACUFS supports the college and university food service market by providing members with the programs and resources needed to excel, from benchmarking and best practices to educational programming and professional networking.
UW dining staff attends the Continental-Pacific regional conference annually and often competes in a variety of culinary competitions.