Students remain critical after CAS wins culinary contest

Campus Auxiliary Services enlisted four of its chefs in a Market Basket Culinary Competition at Skidmore College, including Executive Chef Matthew Laurence, Chef Michelle Halloran, Chef Illana Stevenson and Chef Wilson Castillo (pictured left to right). The team won a silver medal along with six other colleges. Despite the recognition CAS has received, students are still wary of the quality of the food the company provides.

Four chefs from Campus Auxiliary Services competed at Skidmore College in the Market Basket Culinary Competition in the beginning of January. The Geneseo team received a silver medal and placed third out of 11 schools. ‘

The event at Skidmore was accredited by the American Culinary Federation, according to an article from Geneseo’s website. The Geneseo chefs who competed include Executive Chef Matthew Laurence, Chef Michelle Halloran, Chef Illana Stevenson and Chef Wilson Castillo. The teams participated in a mystery basket challenge in which teams were given a basket and required to prepare a three-course menu and a buffet presentation in two hours. 

The 11 teams of chefs came from schools across the Northeast, according to Laurence. The 10 schools that competed against Geneseo were Skidmore College, Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, Ithaca College, Swarthmore College, SUNY Albany, SUNY Cobleskill, Williams College, the University of Connecticut and Tufts University. 

Skidmore was awarded with the gold medal. Cornell, Geneseo, Buffalo, Ithaca, Swarthmore, Albany and Cobleskill all received silver medals, while the remaining three schools received bronze medals. 

Halloran said that the ranking process functioned beyond the medals awarded.

“The way it works is that there’s a set of criteria and then you get graded on them,” she said. “It goes by the amount of points that you get, so technically we were third. There was another team that got silver, but they had I think three points more than we did. It was close, and the other team had competed previously.” 

Despite the recognition CAS has received from culinary institutions, students still have qualms with CAS’s performance at times. CAS attempted to address students’ criticisms by holding student forums last February, however there was a low student turnout to these forums. Changes did come about after these discussions, including more grab-and-go food options.

Accounting major senior Sarah Trifone spoke about why some students are unsatisfied with CAS’s services. 

“Sometimes upstairs Letch food is obscure,” she said. “When they actually have good stuff, it seems relatively empty as most people don’t want to go back. Also I feel that because people don’t go or don’t like what is being served, more meals are thrown away, causing a significant increase in food waste on campus.” 

Nutritionist and Wellness Coordinator Heather Carrera said that she believes there is a disconnection between student opinion and recognition of CAS at performance events because students don’t know about all of the options that are available. 

“I get a lot of vegan and vegetarian students saying that they don’t have enough options,” Carrerra said. “In my opinion, students have complaints partly because they don’t realize they can customize, or they always go to MJ and don’t see all the options.”    

Laurence also said that consistent negative comments from students has been a major concern of his and that he hopes students will take the opportunities available to provide feedback. 

“We’ve received awards for vegan recipes and that stuff, but that’s not to say that there’s no room for improvement,” Laurence said. “We have had a number of open forums over the past year, but turnout from students has not been great. What I’d like to have is more feedback from students.”