When Rex Hospital Executive Chef Ryan Conklin was 18 he worked as pot washer for Columbia University’s executive conference center in New York
“The chefs would have me do all of their tedious work (peeling shrimp, potatoes, carrots, and chopping parsley) which I happened to pick up quickly.”
Conklin expanded his love of the kitchen and graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Upon graduating, he worked for The Four Seasons Hotel in New York and in Limerick, Ireland. At the age of 24 he became the executive chef at Rex Hospital.
Recently Conklin showed off his culinary prowess and captured gold and won the Association for Healthcare Foodservice 2012 Culinary Competition. The competition was held in Miami, Florida. Conklin joined together with Rex Food and Nutrition Retail Services Coordinator Tyran Lawson and competed against hospital chefs from all over the country. Conklin and Lawson had 75 minutes to prepare, cook and present the entrée and sides. However, the competition was not that easy. The chefs had to prepare meals that followed nutritional guidelines and cost less than $7 to produce.
“The competition was held in Miami, Florida for the Association of Healthcare Foodservice’s annual conference and was sponsored by Tyson Foods,” Conklin said. “Five teams were selected out of over 30 applicants nationwide. We had to cook our food in front of an audience of over 300 people, and the food was judged by world renowned chefs on overall taste, appearance, sanitation practices, etc.”
Judges looked ranked dishes on organization, culinary skills, taste and presentation. Norman Van Aken, Chef and Director of Restaurants at the Miami Culinary Institute and James Beard Foundation Winner; Rene Marquis, Executive Chef with the U.S. Army and Military Regional Director with the American Academy of Chefs; and Paula DaSilva, Executive Chef at 1500 Degrees, the only Florida restaurant noted in Esquire’s annual magazine feature, “The Best New Restaurants in America 2011” were the judges of the competition.
Conklin has received a lot of acclaim for capturing the top prize.
“I won bragging rights for being the top Hospital Chef in the nation. The results have been featured in food industry magazines nationwide, along with a gold medal, trophy, and a set of cooking knives.”