For the third straight year, UTC Executive Chef Masahiro (Masa) Yamashita competed against chefs from throughout the Southern Region and earned the gold medal at the 2009 ARAMARK Culinary Excellence (ACE) competition. This summer, he will represent the Southern Region at the National ACE Challenge in Boston. Rodney Ridley and Keith Morrison, who won the silver and bronze metals, will also compete in Boston.
“Congratulations to all the talented chefs for their part in the competition and best wishes to our Southern Region Team at the National ACE Challenge in June. Masa, Rodney and Keith – go for the gold!” said Greg Eisele, District Executive Chef, Southern Regional A.C.E. Coordinator.
The Southern Region competition was held at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In four hours, each chef prepared a three course meal and a presentation plate for a group of tasting judges. Yamashita entered a sushi tower, his main dish featured lamb and for dessert, a tiramisu. He explains this was no ordinary tiramisu.
“I made the tiramisu with tofu instead of using mascarpone,” Yamashita said. “When you say ‘tofu’ to most people they don’t like the idea. But if it tastes good in a tiramisu, they think differently.”
Yamashita is originally from Japan and has lived for 19 years in the southern United States, so each meal represents an opportunity for East to meet West. “I try to use healthier ingredients than typical southern home cooking.”
At the competition, the chefs were also judged in the kitchen during their preparations. Top culinary talent was on hand to judge the event including tasting judges: Chef Hilmar Jonsson, C.M.C., Lead Judge; Chef John Antun, C.E.C. and Chef Edgar Hermann, C.E.C. Chef Mike Firth, Executive Chef, served as the Kitchen Judge for the day. Chef Hilmar Jonsson, C.M.C, was also able to present a special seafood demonstration for the competing chefs.
Competitors in the 2009 Southern Region ACE Challenge were:
- Masahiro Yamashita – The University of Tennessee, Chattanooga – Gold
- Rodney Ridley – The University of West Georgia – Silver
- Keith Morrison – Geiger District Chef – Bronze
- Bruce McVeagh – The University of Southern Mississippi – Honorable Mention and National Team Alternate
- David Geyer – North Georgia College and State University
- Joel Hart – East Tennessee State University
- James Rose – The University of Alabama
- Keith Sipek – The University of Alabama
- Eric Sprague – The University of Florida
To additionally showcase their culinary talents, the chefs were teamed with a Student for a Student/Chef Competition at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The ACE competitor chefs, along with their respective students, prepared small portions of entries which were available in Smokey’s Café at the University Center. Each plate sold for $1.
Executive Chef Masa Yamashita, third from left, front