Monday, March 16, 2015

"Annual Campus Cook-off: Appetizer Any One?"

The Campus Cook-Off is an annual event University Catering created where members of the campus community, students faculty and staff, may submit an original recipe. We wanted our contestants to truly feel like they are a chef fighting to introduce their recipe to the world, so we teamed them up with one of our experienced USU chefs to help them prepare their recipe in our professional catering kitchen. To further add fun and a competitive experience, each of our contestant chefs was outfitted with a customized chef coat with their name forever emblazoned on that was theirs to keep.

This years Campus Cook-Off featured Appetizers. When the submission deadline came several recipes had been entered. University catering then meticulously reviewed them and narrowed the field to the top three contenders. 

Our lucky three contestants for this appetizer edition, were Lisa Starett and her Pork Street Tacos, Chase Lambert & Assistant with his Cauliflower Wings, and Jonathan Bafford, who entered his Pork Steam Buns. All of these contestants were students of Utah State University.
Contestants showing off their chef coats
Our three contestants arrived for the showdown on February 12th. Food preparation was done in the catering kitchen behind the Aggie Marketplace.
Jonathan Bafford rolling his dough for the steam bun

Lisa Starrett preparing topping for the pork street tacos

Chase Lambert and Assistant/Wife preparing cauliflower

Meanwhile, down in the HUB, a stage was set up in the middle of the dining area, which we call the Pit. At 11:30, our contestant chefs were introduced to the crowd and the people's choice judging was underway. 50 tokens were given out at random to judge the peoples choice.
Peoples Choice Judging

50 random guests chosen to participate in the Peoples Choice

Every contestant showcased their appetizer with a 10 - 15 minute entertainment piece to the judges. The judges this year included the winner of the 2014 Bake-Off event, Mickelle Anderson from USU Human Resources, Heidi Bringhurst winner of the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences Cook-Off, and Don Donaldson Chef and General Manager of the Junction.

Lisa Starrett sharing her Pork Street Tacos
Chase Lambert and Assistant/Wife sharing their Cauliflower Wings
Jonathan Bafford sharing his Pork Steam Buns

 After much tasting and deliberation on the judges part, the event commenced with awards. The awards given this year included Judges Choice ( plaque and a 25 block meal plan ), Peoples Choice ( plaque and a 10 block meal plan ), and Runners-Up ( 5 block meal plan).
Judges deliberating and scoring the appetizers. Left to Right: Don Donaldson, Heidi Bringhurst, and Mickelle Anderson

Judges Choice and Peoples Choice were awarded to Lisa Starrett whose Pork Street Tacos were mouthwatering good and a sensation around the board. Jonathan Bafford and Chase Lambert were awarded the Runners-Up awards. 

We appreciate the culinary talent and passion of these students and look forward to the next Campus Cook-off.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Experience Blue was the theme of the 2015 Caine College of the Arts Gala.  Experience Blue brought a night full of art exhibit openings, honoring the Caine College of the Arts' outstanding students, founders and accomplishments, the Grand Gala is the highlight of Arts Week.
When I initially consulted for the V.I.P reception, I envisioned immediately what the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art would look like of the evening long event.

The evening started with University Catering building the centerpieces using blue floral gel beads, submersible LED lights, and a myriad of sizes of glass cylinders of centerpiece. The end results fit perfectly into the Experience Blue theme.

This butler passed menu was enjoyed by all:This butler passed menu was enjoyed by all:

Skewer Basil Wrapped Pearl Mozzarella ~Grape Tomato ~Honey Lime Vinaigrette
Crostini with Crisp Pork Belly~ Tomato Aioli~ Havarti Cheese~ Micro Greens
Shrimp Cocktail Shot
Smoked Cheese Quiche ~ Leeks~ Marinated Tomatoes

With a “Blue” themed dessert buffet tucked away area of the Art Museum to finish off the reception perfectly.
Mini Coconut Cup Cake with Coconut Frosting
French Vanilla Blue Macaroons
Fresh Blueberry Tarts

The evening continued with the acknowledgement of the Founders, Donors and Outstanding Seniors of the Caine College of the Arts with a brief presentation held in the atrium of the Chase Fine Arts Center lit up in blue.
We are proud to continually support such events held on the campus of Utah State University.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

"Timeless Technique:" The Bakery at USU

University Catering and all campus dining locations are lucky to boast their own source of locally baked goods. Rightfully named, The Bakery at USU is located inside the Junction and creates all goods from scratch every day. All those famous delights, Hazel's bread, red velvet cake balls, large cinnamon sweet rolls, are baked across the street and delivered straight from campus to cafes and catered events every day.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with Steve Wright, Bakery Manager and Pastry Chef, to talk about the inner workings and details of the operation. Steve got into the baking business several years ago, beginning primarily by baking bread for a local business. His skills and passion for the industry eventually landed him the position where he is now, managing the The Bakery at USU. Because of his love for baking however, Steve prefers the title "Pastry Chef" over any business related description.

Steve Wright, head chef of The Bakery at USU, shows me how rolls are made.

The Bakery at USU is operated by 10 employees who work difficult hours from ten o' clock to about five o' clock in the morning each night. Certain items are baked off first, followed by an orderly system to ensure that all goods are as fresh as possible for consumers. Each day, University Catering orders certain amounts of specific items depending on event menus for the following day. From muffins to pies and cream puffs to pretzel buns, the bakery has a variety of about 500 items to choose from. What item is ordered the most? Cookies. On average, the bakery makes about 1,000 cookies every day!

When asked if he has any signature techniques, Steve explained that baking is all about using "timeless technique." One of the reasons he loves baking so much, is because it is not an art but a craft, a craft which has been practiced for many generations. According to Steve, baking is not a field of innovation. Skillful and successful baking is all about mastering timeless techniques in order to create the perfect cake or pastry.

For someone with a such a visible love and passion for baking, I had to ask Steve what his favorite bakery item is. With some difficulty, he decided Hazel's Cinnamon Swirl Bread, and I would have to agree!


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Legislative Spouses Luncheon

Utah State University’s First Lady Joyce Albrecht hosted the Legislative Spouses Luncheon Wednesday, February 4th, at the Zions Bank building in Salt Lake City. The luncheon provided an opportunity for those attending to hear more about Utah State University and its many research programs and initiatives. Both student and faculty research were in the spotlight.

Highlights of this year were the Aggies Elevated program recently started at Utah State University, Utah State University Harp Program, Utah State University Center for Clinical Excellence, and Gray Matters.

The afternoon began with a perfect setting as the Legislative Spouses and Guests were welcomed by First Lady Joyce Albrecht.
First Lady Joyce Albrecht

First Lady Joyce Albrecht greeting guests

After the welcoming University Catering started service of the unique menu specifically created for this event. The plate was laid out beautifully with the main entree along with a delicious blend of flavors.
University Catering Staff serving the luncheon
Crisp Artisan Romaine Wedge Salad with Chilled Marinated Chicken Breast
Carrot Ribbon, Tri-Color Heirloom Grape Tomatoes, Sweet Balsamic Onions, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes,
Grilled Avocados and Fresh Black Berries dressed with Green Goddess Herb Vinaigrette

President Stan Albrecht enjoying the Luncheon
Guests enjoying the luncheon

And for dessert a wonderful Raspberry and Cream Profiterole filled with Raspberry and Cream Aggie Ice Cream
Fresh Raspberries and raspberry sauce finished off the lunch portion of the event.

After the meal was served the Legislative Spouses and guests were able to learn about all the highlighted programs.

Utah State University Harp Program has been created for students and provides practical life skills such as communication skills, independence, ability to problem solve, leadership skills, discipline, focus, organizational skills and more. A senior in the Harp Program was the featured Musician for this event and provided beautiful music and shared her experiences as a Harpist and Music Therapist.

Along with the Harp Program the Center for Clinical Excellence and Gray Matters were highlighted. Beth Foley, Dean of Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services was able to present the overall goals of the research and opportunities provided through the Center for Clinical Excellence. As quoted by President Stan Albrecht, "The new Center for Clinical Excellence will positively impact our research programs. It will improve student learning and mentoring experiences and our ability to fulfill our broader institutional mission of serving those in need throughout the state." Maria Norton, professor in the Department of Family, Consumer and Human Development, then presented on Gray Matters-A Randomized Study Designed to Lower Alzheimer’s Disease Risk.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but people can lower their risk through proven lifestyle choices, Norton said. She hopes that the possibility of a longer life with a healthy brain will motivate participants to join the study. The research seeks to quantify how much effect lifestyle changes can have on the participants’ risk of developing AD. The data from Gray Matters will contribute important information to the ongoing national effort seeking a cure for Alzheimer’s. By signing up to be in the study, citizens of Cache Valley will have a unique opportunity to join the fight to end this devastating disease.

Lastly the Aggies Elevated program was shared. It is set up for young adults with intellectual and cognitive disabilities that want what their typically developing peers want--a traditional college experience, the chance to live and learn independently, and to work in a field that is suited to their interests and abilities.There are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States. Of these, 217 have programs for young adults with disabilities. Aggies Elevated is the only program in Utah and one of only a handful in the western United States. Aggies Elevated is a pilot program that will welcome its first cohort of six students to the USU campus for the 2014-2015 school year. The six students will live in the Living Learning Community Housing on campus, attend classes with their typically developing peers, build life skills and engage in community-based internships to reach their goals of independence.

As the luncheon concluded the Legislative Spouses and guests were able to mingle and express their appreciation to those for sharing and as a simple token of thanks were able to take home a brain games booklet created specifically for the event that included mazes, word searches, and other items to keep their brain power strong and healthy.

Now to take you behind the scenes of the event! The University Catering team is a supporter of this event! Amy Rasmussen, University Caterings Marketing and Event Manager headed the event.

With her talents and the chefs creativity the event went off without a hitch! Enjoy some photos of what was going on during all the event!

Table Setting prior to guest arrival

Executive Chef and General Manager Jeff Woolley prepping salads

Sous Chef Corey Cozzens

Salad assembly line

 Until next time....