Putting UB in the light

Williams trains hard for Conference Culinary Challenge

The Spectrum

Growing up in Buffalo as the youngest of five boys, Seth Williams spent his childhood surrounded by food - growing in the garden, cooking on the stove and canned into mason jars.

"[My siblings] would always fight over the last grab of the potato salad," said Williams, a chef manager at UB. "So I decided I'd learn how to make it."

Williams has been working in UB's Dining Services as a chef for a year and a half, learning different cuisines and cooking techniques. He views his kitchen as an entirely different world.

An upbringing immersed in culinary culture has led Williams to a job that he loves and given him opportunities.

From March 19-22, Williams will compete in the Northeast Regional Conference Culinary Challenge at Rutgers University. It is the first time a chef will represent UB at the challenge.

Nine chefs from across the country will be given a protein - this year's will be live lobster - and will have 60 minutes to prepare four portions of an original hot entr?(c)e.

"The entire Dining & Shops [community] is excited that Chef Seth's recipe was selected," said Raymond Kohl, marketing manager for UB Campus Dining & Shops. "We think it's a great opportunity for him, the overall vision of what we're doing here at Campus Dining & Shops and [it's] nice to have the recognition."

To qualify for the competition, Williams worked diligently for a week to create his dish, Shrimp and Grits. His dish consisted of succulent blackened lobster meat with wild boar bacon and kale, served over Gruyere grits and truffle-poached eggs.

Out of 14 applicants, nine were chosen, including Williams.

If Williams wins the Northeast Region Culinary Challenge, he will go to Baltimore to compete in the National Conference on July 10, 2014.

"[It's about] bragging rights and exemplifies the work and the commitment that Campus Dining & Shops is putting toward that program and really trying to build that program," Kohl said.

Starting next week, Williams will begin training 30-35 hours a week to polish his technique, timing and presentation until he leaves for Regionals.

Campus Dining & Shops Assistant Director Adam Coats will assist Williams in perfecting his entr?(c)e along with Kohl and Executive Director of Campus Dining & Shops Jeff Brady.

"We took Chef Seth away from his daily responsibilities in order to research and create a great dish for the Culinary Challenge," Brady said. "We now decided to reach out in the culinary community and find experts who engage in this type of competition."

Brady, Coats, Williams and Kohl found two chefs in Western New York who compete on a regular basis and agreed to help Williams prepare for the event.

Williams will be doing a complete run-through in a competition class with Chef Scott Steiner, who teaches at Niagara County Community College's culinary institute.

"I want to practice until I can do it in my sleep and then do it without really thinking about it," Williams said.

Williams will also be working under Master Chef Roland Hennin, who coached the 1992 gold medal U.S. Culinary Olympic Team and is one of 60 Master Chefs certified in the United States.

"Working with both professional groups we feel is going to better prepare Chef Seth for the Culinary Challenge," Brady said.

Williams said he doesn't believe he deserves all of the credit and wants to make himself, his team members, his bosses and UB proud.

"I want to get people excited to come to UB and see what our dining program is and put UB in the light," Williams said.

email: arts@ubspectrum.com