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PACES Team Takes Bronze Medal at SUNY Culinary Summit

June 22, 2018

The PACES Dining Services team representing SUNY Potsdam at the SUNY Culinary Summit included, from left: John VanKennen, Joel Brown, Amy Hazen and Nathan Shene.

SUNY Potsdam was represented by four PACES Dining Service managers at the SUNY Culinary Summit competition held on the University at Buffalo campus from June 12 to 14. 

The team of four dedicated chefs from Potsdam Auxiliary and College Educational Services (PACES) took home a bronze medal for their performance at the competition, which was sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation.

The competition was held as part of the second annual SUNY Culinary Conference, which is geared for SUNY dining service operations that are independently run. The PACES team competed against professional pastry, sous and executive chefs from other SUNY campuses.

The SUNY Potsdam team included team captain John VanKennen (manager of Thatcher Kitchen), joined by team members Amy Hazen (manager of Bowman Kitchen/Commissary), Nathan Shene (assistant manager of the Student Union Dining Court) and Joel Brown (manager of Becky’s Place and Tim Hortons).

“We are all very proud of our staff, and how they have represented PACES and SUNY Potsdam,” said PACES Dining Services Director Pat Gray.

Each team devised their own menu based on ingredients they were given, and was judged by four ACF Chefs, who ranked teams on food presentation, portion and nutritional balance, menu creativity, food flavor, taste, texture, handling, cooking techniques, the proper use of ingredients and the team’s workflow.

Each team was given 2.5 hours to prepare, cook and plate their menu for a four-course meal. The PACES menu consisted of brown butter-poached lobster tail served on a bed of handmade teff ravioli stuffed with black garlic and ricotta; herb-grilled rack of lamb with farro risotto, garnished with crisp purple sweet potato chips; pan-seared quail accompanied by a mustard green, chayote squash and jicama salad dressed with kumquat vinaigrette, and homemade rhubarb ice cream topped with candied walnuts.

The team garnered accolades for their poached lobster tail, inspired by The French Laundry. VanKennen chose to prepare the dish simply to let the flavors shine through.

“The competition is a team effort, and it allows us to work together in ways that strengthen our program. I always leave these events a little more humbled. We have such a great staff at PACES, and we may not all have culinary degrees, but we love to make great food, and we do it well,” VanKennen said.

The SUNY Auxiliary Service Association identified the need for a gathering of chefs and cooks, to meet the growing demand for a culinary experience on SUNY campuses. The Summit featured guest speakers, discussions, hands-on interest sessions and the competition. The University at Buffalo hosted the event, which was attended by dining services staff from SUNY Geneseo, The College at Brockport, Morrisville State College and SUNY Potsdam.

About PACES:

Potsdam Auxiliary and College Educational Services, Inc. (PACES) is a not-for-profit corporation operating under contract with SUNY Potsdam. The mission of PACES is to offer high-quality products and services while maximizing customer value and financial return, to the benefit of the larger SUNY Potsdam community. PACES Dining Services has been rated the No. 1 Dining Service in the SUNY System in the Student Opinion Survey twice in a row. For more information, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit


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Jason Hunter, College Communications (315) 267-2114

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