Westfield State University’s Executive Chef Mary Reilly wins Gold Medal at NACUFS Culinary Challenge
Westfield State University Dining Services Executive Chef Mary Reilly earned agold medal at the National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS) Culinary Challenge with her dish, Zuppa de Pesce with Oyster Cavatelli. The competition was a part of the 2018 NACUFS Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, held April 4, in Binghamton, NY.
“I am very proud to bring this medal home to Westfield State University,” said Chef Reilly. “I hope we’ll be able to incorporate the competition model into what we do here in Dining Services. It’s a great way to spark creativity and to give our team a chance to shine.”
The competition required chefs to use three ingredients: clams, oysters, and squid. After some brainstorming, Chef Reilly created her dish, Zuppa de Pesce with Oyster Cavatelli. Cavatelli is a type of pasta usually made with egg or ricotta; Chef Reilly used pureed oyster in the pasta instead. The oysters gave the pasta a delicious briny flavor that seasoned the rest of the dish, and helped earn her high marks in the competition. She served it in a “fish stew” made with steamed clams and squid, carrots, fennel, kale, garlic, and a touch of jalapeno. The finishing touches included a smoked paprika oil and toasted breadcrumbs. The chefs were allotted 60 minutes to prepare their dish in front of a live audience and panel of judges.
The NACUFS Culinary Challenge is a culinary competition sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation. It is a professional-level competition open to chefs from the Northeast. The recipes were submitted in January and Chef Reilly was chosen for one of the eight competition slots. Competitors are scored on a 100-point scale in categories including taste, knife skills, organization, cleanliness, and teamwork. Chef Reilly scored “in the 90s” to earn a gold medal.
Andrew Mankus, Director of Dining Services at Westfield State University said, “This award not only benefits Chef Mary, it benefits the dining program, the University and its students we serve every day. We are so proud of what Chef Mary was able accomplish for her first competition, and we look forward to many more opportunities in the future.”
In 2016, Westfield State launched its own self-operating system based on a farm-to-fork model. As a result, Westfield State Dining Services now partners with more than 25 local farmers and food producers.
Reilly is a resident of Montague, Mass.