Binghamton chefs win top prize

Local food inspires creativity

Feature Image

It’s not every day that a Binghamton University dining hall offers braised pork belly slider on a sweet potato waffle with Brussels sprout slaw and cider apple chips. But when it happens, you know it’s a special occasion.

This menu won Sodexo Executive Chef John Enright and chef Sam Pfaffenbach the “Best Taste of Broome” award at the Fresh Food Face-Off competition in September 2010. And while it’s not typical dining hall fare, students were treated to the winning meal.

“We featured this dish at the grill station because it was a hit at the competition,” Pfaffenbach says. “We wanted to showcase our winning recipe — that the community enjoyed so much — for the student community.”

While hamburgers and fries may always reign supreme as dining hall bestsellers, Pfaffenbach, in his 14 years as a chef, has noticed that students have more sophisticated palates and are looking for trendier options.

“One approach is taking classic items such as the burger and creating a hybrid by incorporating popular ingredients and presenting them in the spirit of the classic,” Pfaffenbach says, citing buffalo chicken sandwiches, Gyros, quesadillas and sliders — chicken Parmesan and pork belly are two versions.

When Enright, who has been a chef for 25 years, received an e-mail about the competition, sponsored by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County, Pfaffenbach went to work creating the menu.

“We knew we had to use locally raised and grown ingredients as part of this competition, and seeing that it was harvest time in New York, I chose ingredients that could have been harvested that day and eaten that night,” Pfaffenbach says.

The pork belly was chosen because it is a tasty cut of meat, Pfaffenbach says. Apples were chosen because Binghamton is in the heart of apple country. And Pfaffenbach decided to serve the dish as a slider because sliders are popular.

“The dish just evolved from there,” Pfaffenbach says. “Once I decided on the ingredients and got it down on paper, the cooking part was easy.”