Ball State chef wins regional cooking competition with striped bass, polenta dish
April 4, 2008
Chef Jason Reynolds
It sounds like the stuff of fine-dining restaurants: pan-seared striped bass with shiitake mushroom polenta cake and creamed spinach. But this isn't the lunch special at a chic country club - it's a dish that won a Ball State chef and Muncie native top billing in a regional cooking competition in March.
Jason Reynolds, a Ball State chef, won first prize in the National Association of College and University Food Services' (NACUFS) 50th annual Midwest Region Conference. Held at Purdue University, the conference drew nearly 500 people from more than 50 Midwestern colleges and universities.
In the competition, similar to the reality TV show "Iron Chef," contestants had an hour to use striped bass to create a meal for four. Fifteen contestants submitted recipes before the competition for review, and only nine were accepted to compete, including Reynolds. A panel of professional judges sampled three of the meals, while the fourth was put on display.
Of winning the award, Reynolds said: "We're known for our dining service … I think it shows the kind of talent we have here."
Reynolds earned his degree in culinary arts from Vincennes University in 1994. He went to work for the Radisson Hotel in Indianapolis and the Woodland Country Club in Carmel, Ind., before joining the Ball State staff in 1998. He also served on the committee to create the intercollegiate NACUFS Culinary Challenge.
As the winner of the Midwest conference, Reynolds will compete against winners from the other six regional NACUFS chapters at the NACUFS National Conference in Washington July 9-13, cooking the same striped bass dish.
He said he and many other chefs have moved from hotels, restaurants and country clubs to universities so they can have more personal time and for the camaraderie of interacting with students.
"It's fun and exciting," Reynolds said of working at Ball State. "It's different from being in the kitchen."
By Alaric DeArment