Top Chef Triumph: Executive Chef Claims Silver Medal in Culinary Showdown

On April 2, Stony Brook University Hospital Executive Chef Jim Kellenberger competed in the National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS) Culinary Challenge, sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation (ACF), which recognizes the vast culinary expertise in collegiate foodservice.

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Executive Chef Jim Kellenberger was awarded the American Culinary Federation Silver Medal

The NACUFS 2024 Culinary Challenge took place in Buffalo, New York, where each competitor was given 75 minutes to set up, cook and plate their original recipe featuring the mandatory protein. Chefs from all across the country competed in this timed live competition. Each competitor was provided two 28-32 ounce fresh branzini (head and fins on, gutted and scaled), one pound medium bulgur wheat, and one pound 21-25 P&D white shrimp, tail on, and was then required to use all three types of protein to build a nutritionally balanced plate including starch, vegetables, and sauce to impress the most critical judges. All chefs were judged on a 100-point scale rating their organization, cooking skills, culinary technique and taste.

Executive Chef Jim Kellenberger was awarded the ACF Silver Medal for his pan-seared miso glazed branzino with kombucha sweet and sour sauce, shrimp fried bulgur wheat garnished with baby greens and tossed in a chili ginger vinaigrette. ACF is the largest premier professional chefs’ organization in North America. He was also the third-place winner for the NACUFS Northeast region. Kellenberger enjoys cooking Italian and Mediterranean classic dishes, however, for this competition he chose Asian-style flavors to cook the meal quickly in two pans, staying organized and adhering to the strict guidelines of the competition. This flavorful dish will be a featured recipe this spring at the Chef’s Table at Market Place Cafe at Stony Brook Hospital. 

“As an executive chef, stepping into the arena of a national cooking competition was an electrifying journey. Amidst the fierce rivalry, I uncovered a profound humility. It wasn’t just about showcasing your culinary talents; it was about bonding with fellow chefs, sharing stories, techniques, and a mutual love and passion for cooking,” stated Kellenberger.

Kellenberger started out as a chemistry major before continuing his education and earning his AAS in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University and a certificate in European food, wine and travel from Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland. His culinary career began as a short-order cook at a fish market on the New Jersey shore before becoming top chef at the Art Institute of San Bernardino’s Culinary School, where he worked as an academic director. He earned a bachelor of science degree in hospitality administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and then began working on the Las Vegas strip as a chef at world-renowned casinos such as the Rio Hotel and Casino, MGM Mirage Properties and the Hilton. 

“Passion is an ingredient you can taste, which is why every meal that we create has the opportunity to make a profound impact on the lives of those we serve, one bite at a time,” said Kellenberger.

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