Ever consider snacking on lentil ice cream? What about brittle made with bacon? They were the finishing touches of another gold medal meal created by UTC Chef Masa Yamashita provided for the fourth annual higher education ARAMARK Culinary Excellence Challenge 2010, Southern Region.
In the four years the competition has been held, Yamashita has won gold each year. This year he bested Southern chefs from 18 schools, among them the University of Alabama and UT Knoxville. How does he do it?
“I am Japanese. I like to put an Asian flair on French and Italian dishes, an East meets West cuisine. I also like to cook healthy—I don’t use a pound of butter in the food I prepare,” Yamashita said.
From a “Mystery Bucket” filled with a whole chicken, shrimp, lentils, dry cherry and rutabaga, Yamashita’s entrée menu included stuffed chicken and shrimp-rutabaga ravioli with spring vegetable and lemon grass-ginger sauce.
As result of his fourth gold medal win, Yamashita will compete in the national ARAMARK higher education chef competition in San Francisco, California, on July 25. He has earned two bronze medals at the national level in his four years of competition. “When the national chefs hear “the South” they always think biscuits and gravy. That’s not what they get from me!” he said.
Yamashita’s winning ways are infused into ARAMARK catered campus events and in the daily offerings students enjoy.
“Nowadays, students grow up with food like this—they eat at restaurants with their parents and they know unusual flavors,” Yamashita said. “We try to add a little tofu to an entrée or add fresh Asian vegetables to dishes. Students appreciate the variety.”
He never misses an opportunity to educate the taste buds at a catered event. “Chancellor Brown and his wife Dr. Carolyn Thompson are very supportive of trying different kinds of food for special events. That kind of menu makes them and me really happy,” Yamashita said.
For a bit of background on his award-winning deserts, Yamashita says he cooked the lentils with sugar, let them cool, pureed half and left the other half of the cooked lentils chunky before he added the final ice cream ingredients. He served the ice cream with warm chocolate molten cake.
He got the idea of bacon in brittle from the US. “I like pancakes served with maple syrup and bacon. The brittle with bacon has a smoky, salty and sweet taste,” he said. With the smoked bacon brittle, he served balsamic cherry sauce.