ISU Dining's Astarita Takes Home Silver at NACUFS Midwest Culinary Challenge

01 Apr 2011
AMES, Iowa - It was an intense, sweat-inducing one-hour pressure cooker, but when the results were announced it was all worth it for Iowa State University Dining Chef Ed Astarita, who was awarded a silver medal for his work at the 2011 National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Midwest Region Culinary Challenge on Monday, March 21, in Ames. The sous chef, who works primarily out of ISU's bakery in his position as head pastry chef, topped seven other competitors from the region on his way to the second highest score.

"It was an honor having the privilege in representing ISU Dining for this high caliber event," said Astarita. "It was an adrenaline-inducing, action packed, exciting, under pressure learning experience, as well as being very fun and all in one hour! I look forward to doing it again."

The culinary challenge gave nine chefs from around the region the opportunity to display their skills. Competitors were allowed 30 minutes of prep time and 60 minutes to prepare, cook, and plate a meal featuring the mandatory ingredient beef tri-tip. Judges scored the chefs on organization, cooking skills and culinary techniques, and the overall taste of the food.

Chef Astarita prepared seared tri tip with petite potato scallion pancakes, tomato thyme concasse, caramelized tournee of carrots, sauce choron, and parmesan cheese chip garnish.

"My goal was to match the best cooking methods and flavors to what was presented to us," said Astarita. "I stuck with what I know best, cooking classical foods properly and to perfection."

Astarita joined ISU Dining's culinary team in 2005. His talents as the university's pastry chef have created unforgettable desserts and confections for ISU and the Ames community. Prior to his work at ISU, Astarita attended The Culinary Institute of America and worked for the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Boston, the Turnberry Isle Yacht and Country Club in Miami, and the Oyster Bar and Grill in New York City as well as Aunt Maude's and The Café in Ames.

Founded in 1958, NACUFS supports the college and university foodservice industry by providing members with the programs and resources they need to excel. The organization provides everything from benchmarking and best practices to educational programming and professional networking for member institutions.

Iowa State University was host to this year's NACUFS Midwest Region Conference for the first time in school history. The three-day event featured the culinary challenge as well as a vendor showcase, guest speakers, and town hall meetings and interest sessions that allowed attendees to exchange foodservice ideas and strategies.

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