Culinology Team Earns Silver Medal at RCA Competition

Published Thursday, March 23, 2017
From left: Jordan Clark, Kenneth Lam, Justin Laupprich, Dylan Riggle
From left: Jordan Clark, Kenneth Lam, Justin Laupprich, Dylan Riggle

Who would have guessed that you can’t get fresh spinach in Puerto Rico?

That was an obstacle that the SMSU Culinology team faced during its recent competition at the Research Chefs Association (RCA) Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The team was one of just four selected to compete in the “Savory” category of the student competition. They competed against two teams from Taylor’s University in Malaysia and one team from Guelph University in Canada.

Four teams also competed in the “Pastry” category.

The rules of the competition are simple: Create a frozen version of the competition dish and ship it to the competition site, and then make that same dish on-site. Judges compare how closely the frozen version matches the freshly-made version in taste, texture and quality. The goal is to have the frozen entree taste as close to the freshly-prepared gold standard entree as possible.

The SMSU team was comprised of Jordan Clark, a senior Culinology major from Circle Pines, Minn.; Kenneth Lam, a senior Culinology major from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Justin Laupprich, a senior Culinology major from Cottage Grove, Minn.; and Dylan Riggle, a senior Culinology major from Lakefield, Minn.

The team prepared Puerto Rican Lasagna. There were some issues from the start, however. For starters, the frozen version of the dish they shipped to Puerto Rico was mishandled once it arrived and ended up sitting on a loading dock for a couple of days. That necessitated re-making the dish and freezing it again for the judges.

Then, there was no fresh spinach to be found. “We were told by a store clerk that there must have been a problem with a shipment of spinach. If some of it is bad, they don’t get it for a while” said Dr. Joyce Hwang, Assistant Professor of Hospitality Management. “We had to use frozen.”

SMSU earned a silver medal during the competition, and Hwang was pleased with that finish. “We overcame some challenges and the team members handled the problems really well by working together. That made the experience even more special,” said Hwang.

This was the seventh year of the RCA competition. SMSU has qualified for the finals each year.

The student team began developing their product in September, and submitted its proposal in December of 2016 and was selected in January of this year to compete as one of the final four teams.

“The student teams that compete are very intense,” said Hwang. “It was a great experience for our students.”