A Top Chef at UCR

Residence hall chef wins silver medal at National Association of College and University Food Services Conference

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – It’s no secret, residential hall dining has gotten a bit more upscale at the University of California, Riverside. UCR Dining Services prides itself on high-quality, authentic, healthy cuisine options. And now it can add award-winning chef to the list of things to be proud of when it comes to dining on campus.

Chef Charley Johnson representing UCR at the National Association of College and University Food Services Conference in Santa Cruz

Chef Charley Johnson representing UCR at the National Association of College and University Food Services Conference in Santa Cruz

Charley Johnson is the chef at Aberdeen-Inverness Residential Restaurant, the residential hall better known as A&I. Chef Charley won third place and the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Silver Medal for his Tandoori style Buffalo Flank Steak Roulade at the National Association of College and University Food Services Conference in Santa Cruz. It’s an annual competition where chefs are critiqued in a variety of categories including creativity, flavor, and presentation, but it was Chef Charley’s first time competing.

Up against 10 highly talented chefs from regional colleges and universities – Chef Charley’s decadent, melt in your mouth piece of meat stood out amongst the judges. He said his secret is the use of classic techniques. “The way I prepared the meat, the way I created the sauce, even the side potatoes, it was all based on a classical French cooking technique,” said Chef Charley.

The finished product - Tandoori style Buffalo Flank Steak Roulade.

The finished product – Tandoori style Buffalo Flank Steak Roulade.

His inspiration for his Tandoori style Buffalo Flank Steak Roulade came from an Indian dish called palak paneer. The popular Northern Indian vegetarian curry made of mostly spinach and cheese was the theme for the filling of his roulade. Chef Charley said he came up with his own spice blends, hoping his originality would earn him a top spot in the conference – and it did.

“The judges really liked the way I worked. They said I was well organized, and I work cleanly – that’s the best compliment I could get,” he explained, noting that he takes pride in his orderly fashion.

Johnson said this was his first time competing in a conference of this intensity. He had five minutes to set-up, one hour to cook, and ten minutes to plate the dish. “I wanted to challenge myself,” he said, “it was learning experience, a way to develop myself as a chef.”

He also credits his team at UCR for his success. From input from his co-workers on how to improve the dish, to his manager, Executive Chef Lanette Dickerson, who he said coached him and pushed him to the next level.

While, you wouldn’t find this intricate dish being served at A&I, Chef Charley said you’d find plenty of other delectable options, like Herb Roasted Whole Chicken, Grilled Tilapia, or even Korean Tacos.

So, does he plan on competing again next year? The simple answer – no, but Chef Charley said, it is possible he’ll take another shot at it in the future.

 

 

 

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