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Vicky Klukkert: On the Bright Side: SUNY Delhi culinary team wins regional competition

Mar. 8—The SUNY Delhi Culinary Hot Food Team has earned a spot at a national competition.

The team competed in and won the American Culinary Federation Student Team of the Year Northeast regional qualifier competition Saturday, March 3 in Buffalo. They faced a team from Monroe College in New Rochelle, chef and co-coach Sean Pehrsson said. "Monroe is always tough competition," he said. "They were the back-to-back national champions, so to beat them in the regional was a great accomplishment."

According to Pehrsson, this is the first time the team has competed at the regional competition since 2019. A team competed at nationals in 2017 and "We have won this competition twice in 2010 and 2012," he said.

Chef and co-coach Victor Sommo said the team of Team Captain Brennan Spencer, of Painted Post; Michael Fanning, of Warwick; Mckena Giles, of Castle Creek; Moses Rojas, of Bronx; and Jahnasia Sutton, of New York City, had one month to prepare for the competition. In addition to the competition team members, students Samuel Giordano, of Endicott; Wayne Karnuth, of Bolivar; Nathan Kubinski, of Staten Island; Jordan Mckeen, of Liverpool; and Sarthak Thapa, of Kathmandu, Nepal were on the special/support team.

"The students are required to showcase their knife skills by demonstrating various knife cuts," Sommo said. "They have one hour to complete their task and are evaluated on the quality and volume of their finished cuts. The vegetable cuts are evaluated blindly, to ensure fairness. The top eight scoring students compose the team and team support."

The team had to make a four-course meal with six portions and serve it to the judges, Pehrsson said. "They had 90 minutes to prepare the food and 20 minutes to serve the food," he said. "The hundreds of hours of practice paid off and the students were able to earn a gold medal."

The courses had to highlight local ingredients and for the entree the team had to prepare a modern version of Chef Auguste Escoffier's, Poulet Sauté a la Catalane, Sommo said. "We picked ingredients that are in season and featured them throughout the menu. This time of the year we are a bit limited on the variety of fruits available, so we chose to use tropical fruits for our dessert, but other than that all the produce we used was seasonal. Using local ingredients was part of the criteria for the competition. We embraced this criteria, and it certainly helped with the quality of our menu. These are some of the local products we used, trout from Sky Top Springs Fish farm in Sidney, our chickens were donated to the team by Lenny Messina, chef at Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Lola Restaurant and members of the 2012 SUNY Delhi National Championship winning team; Pommeau de Meridale donated to us by Jerry and Erica Pellegrino of Strickland Hollow Distillery, cream and milk from Clark's Dairy, butter from Cowbella, Fruition Chocolate and Heller's Farms apples just to name a few."

The team will compete at the national competition in July in Phoenix, Arizona. To make this dream a reality, the student chefs will not only undertake a rigorous training schedule to prepare but also need to raise $60,000 to make the trip possible. "Nationals is expensive," Pehrsson said. Donations can be made online at https://tinyurl.com/bdfkwkp7.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221.