Chef Nathan Barratt, Victoria College Food Services’ head chef, attended the 19th annual “Tastes of the World” Chef Culinary Conference which was held at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, from June 16–21. The theme for this year’s conference was Flavor, Culture, Healthfulness: The Future of College Dining Menus. The six-day event featured seminars, cooking workshops, and presentations featuring some of the finest members of Johnson & Wales University and The Culinary Institute of America, exploring the regional foods of America along with influences from Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Mediterranean.
Barratt was picked as a wild card competitor in the first Chopped Style Cooking Competition ever held at UMASS. The competition, hosted by Chef Jet Tila, featured several rounds over three days with four chefs competing in each round. In each round, participants were given a mystery basket containing four key ingredients, all of which needed to be used in the preparation of an entree dish. The dishes were evaluated by a panel of judges, featuring prominent chefs and television personalities including Chef Illiana de la Vega (Mexican cuisine instructor at the Culinary Institute of America), Dave Danhi (creator of the Grilled Cheese Truck in California) and Kevin Brauch (host of The Thirsty Traveler and commentator on Iron Chef America).
Barratt competed in the final round, where he went head-to-head with the previous day’s winners. His basket contained live lobster, Coca Cola and five different kinds of baked cookies. Using those ingredients, he prepared a warm lobster and fresh lettuce Thai roll with coke and chilli ginger sauce, using chopped up peanuts and cookies as a crunch component inside the roll and on top as a garnish. Barratt’s innovative use of the unorthodox key ingredients greatly impressed the panel, and he was awarded the Chopped Competition Champion Title. He received a commemorative custom chef coat, with the 2013 champion and conference logo embroidered on it, as well as an award plaque.
Later in the week Barratt competed with some other chefs in an ACF culinary competition, sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation. The competition featured 17 teams of four, all cooking on small, butane burner stoves. Barratt’s team won a bronze medal based on their total scores and placed fifth overall.