Carving up the college culinary competition

By Max Roux |
Photo by David Castagno

Executive Chef Keith Atkins serves up some cuisine conversation when asked about his participation in the Fourth Annual ARAMARK ACE Campus Dining Challenge.

“The competition is a Top Chef Style cooking tournament involving University and College Chefs from the region,” explains Atkins, who is also known as Chef Keith.

Atkins says the competition will start as a regional battle among some of the head chefs from the South-Eastern Universities.

“There are 28 of us in total and we will be meeting in Alabama over the week of St. Patrick’s Day,” Atkins said.

The competition is split into two days in which 14 chefs will be going on the first day, and he along with 13 other college representatives are scheduled for the second day.

Atkins said, “I believe there are four chefs representing the UF, three are coming from FSU, one from FIU, one UCF, two or three showing up the University of Tennessee, one representing Mississippi State, and two are coming from the University of Alabama.”

Atkins revealed the concept of the how the competition remains the same challenge for each chef.

“It’s a mystery box that is comprised of two proteins (like fish or chicken), two vegetables, and one starch (like a potato or wheat flour base), and is a different combination for the 14 chefs going on day 1 and day 2. The only preparation we can make is the list of spices given before hand to all the chefs,” Atkins said.

Although Flagler’s chief culinary expert is the sole representative from our college, Atkins’s 25 years of experience in the arts of Italian cuisine which came from his background in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

Executive Chef Keith Atkins prepares omelets in the Flagler College dining hall.

“The old story of the little kid on a pickle bucket making the pie dough that was me,” Atkins said.

He picked up another weapon to cooking arsenal infusing eclectic Cajun cuisine, which he learned from working beside fellow chefs in Louisiana and Mississippi.

There is no doubt that Atkins will be carving up competition in the fourth annual regional ARAMARK ACE Colligate Culinary Campus Challenge.

He hopes he makes it to the nationals set for June.

Whatever the outcome, Atkins remains Flagler’s Chopping Block Champion.

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