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Pace Cook-Off Tosses College Dining Services Into The Frying Pan

Dining service chefs from across the area gathered to compete in a cook-off on Pace's Pleasantville campus. Photo Credit: Pace
Food Network celebrity chef Jet Tila hosted the challenge. Photo Credit: Pace

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- Chefs from four area colleges faced off at Pace University in Pleasantville, as Food Network chef Jet Tila hosted a Cutthroat Kitchen style challenge, testing the culinary flair and speed of dining service chefs.

Chefs from Pace's Manhattan and Pleasantville campuses, as well as chefs from Manhattanville College and SUNY Purchase prepared two appetizers, a main entrée and dessert for a panel of judges. The panel was comprised of two Pace University staff members, Westchester Magazine’s John Turiano, the regional vice president of Chartwells -- a higher education dining service -- and the executive director of SUNY Purchase’s College Association. Chefs were judged on creativity, flavor and presentation.

Tila, a guest chef on Food Networks’ Cutthroat Kitchen, kept contestants on their toes by randomly reducing their prep time and including challenging ingredients, such as an entire pig and lamb. At the end of the day, Manhattanville College chef Janelle Oliver took the trophy for best overall performance with her entrée of seared salmon and smashed red potatoes.

“I didn’t think I was going to win, but I guess I pulled it all together,’’ she said. Tila said the competition was all in good fun, but was a reminder of the chefs' skills. “These are all very high-caliber, highly trained chefs that are bringing their skills to the university environment,’’ he said.

The day’s competition, which drew dozens of hungry student onlookers, was organized by the school’s Director of Dining Services Kevin Henriquez. Pace students also assisted the chefs.

Other contestants were chef Thomas Ludewig, Pace Pleasantville campus, chef Joseph Vaina, Pace NYC campus and chef Eric Frost, SUNY Purchase.

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