Santa Fe NM: Jaime Clinton, Executive Sous Chef for Catering, represented UNC Charlotte well at the Southern Regional Conference of the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Culinary Challenge event, held last week at the University of New Mexico. She took second place in her first time competing.
The NACUFS Culinary Challenge is the conference’s headliner event, designed to showcase outstanding food preparation and presentation skills in collegiate dining services. Chefs are chosen to compete based on their original recipe for a main protein chosen by conference leadership, which this year, was pork. As contestants, they are given one hour to prepare and plate their dish before a panel of American Culinary Federation-approved judges and an audience of observers. They must display requisite techniques and cuts in the process.
Six universities were represented: UNC Charlotte, Georgia Southern, UNC Greensboro, Suwanee, Tulane, and Vanderbilt. Chef Jaime made “Apple Cider Brined Bone-in Pork with Brown Butter and Sage Apples, accompanied by Sweet and Yukon Potato Strings, Fried Kale, Cabbage and Turnip Kraut and Creamy Apple Dijon sauce.”
Although you wouldn’t know it from looking at the recipe, Chef Jaime characterizes her culinary style as simple. “Being from the South, I know what flavors go with pork,” she said with a chuckle. "The biggest challenge was working under the pressure of time. I didn’t want to overcook the pork; that destroys the flavor. You have to treat the pig well!”
Apparently she did so. Judges’ remarks state that her dish was colorful, had great flavor, and that the pork was cooked perfectly.
Reflecting on the experience, Chef Jaime said, “I’m not normally that competitive of a person, but there’s something about showing your skills and sharing your flavors that’s pretty cool. I can’t wait to do it again!”
“Jaime is an anchor for our campus culinary team,” said Jason Shillinglaw, Campus Executive Chef. “She brings creativity, excitement and an unparalleled work ethic every day. It was awesome to watch her work during the culinary competition. She managed her time well, worked extremely clean and put together a fantastic meal!”
Jaime Clinton has been serving UNC Charlotte for four years; two at Center Center and two at main campus. Her victory marks the third year in a row that a UNC Charlotte chef has brought a silver medal back to Charlotte.
Of interest to foodies and aspiring chefs, here are some of the culinary techniques and cuts Chef Jaime displayed in preparation of her competition recipe :
Brining: Soaking meat in a strong solution of water, salt, herbs, spices and sweetener to tenderize, flavor and reduce cooking time.
Frenching: To cut the meat away from the end of a rib or chop so that part of the bone is exposed)
Chiffonade: To cut into thin strips or shreds
Julienne: Cut into thin, matchstick shapes
Brunoise: A mixture of vegetables that have been finely diced or shredded, then cooked slowly in butter
(source: Barron's Food Lovers Companion, Herbst and Herbst)