UH Moment

UH Moment: UH Chef Wins Regional Cooking Competition, Will Compete for National Title This Summer

“I love cooking because food connects us all and enables us to make meaningful memories”



To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="https://embed.hpm.io/448837/448835" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>

As the senior executive chef at the University of Houston, Chad McDonald regularly serves up creative cuisine to hungry Coogs across campus. While his signature wonton char siu noodle soup hasn't been featured just yet at Cougar Woods or Moody Towers Dining Commons, the delicious dish did earn McDonald first place at the National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS) 2023 Culinary Challenge for the Southern region. This summer he'll compete to be named the top collegiate chef in the nation.

The live, timed cooking competition annually recognizes the vast collection of culinary expertise in collegiate foodservice across the country. Competitors were tasked with cooking a nutritionally balanced plate using two 1-pound pork tenderloins, 1-pound ground pork and a half pound slab of smoked bacon with their choice of a starch, vegetables, and sauce. The culinary creations were judged based on a 100-point scale to rate organization, cooking skills, culinary technique and taste.

"I feel really grateful and amazing. I couldn’t do this without my team and I just feel so supported by the University of Houston and Chartwells Higher Education," McDonald said. Chartwells is UH's dining services provider. "I love cooking because food connects us all and enables us to make meaningful memories, and this victory will certainly be a terrific memory in my career."

McDonald now advances to the national competition at the NACUFS National Conference on July 19-22 in Baltimore, Maryland where he will compete in front of a live studio audience against chefs from the University of Utah, Pennsylvania State University, The Ohio State University, University of Massachusetts and University of California-San Diego. The chefs will cook the same dish they prepared for the regional competitions.

McDonald started with in 2017 as the executive catering chef and was later named the executive chef over residential dining at Cougar Woods. In 2021, he was promoted to senior executive chef, overseeing all culinary operations for the UH System. He's proud of the innovative dining services offered at the University of Houston which, in recent years, has evolved and modernized its residential dining program while increasing food variety and access across campus.

"We offer our students restaurant quality food in a customer-centric environment," he said. "Being in one of the most diverse universities in the nation is a great opportunity, it drives us to offer a menu and dining program that reflects the demographics of our campus and community."

Not only does UH Dining provide students with plentiful and varied menu options, but its commitment to sustainability is award winning, too. Cougar Woods Dining Commons is the only higher education foodservice establishment in Texas to achieve a four-star rating by the Green Restaurant Association – one of just a few collegiate dining halls in the nation to earn that status.

"Our goal is to provide an amazing dining experience for our students, whether through our creative menu or sustainability efforts," said Emily Messa, senior associate vice president, administration. "We know how amazing our food service program is, so having Chef McDonald on the national stage is a great opportunity to showcase our amazing culinary talent to the rest of the country."

The NACUFS 2023 Culinary Challenge winner receives a trophy, cash award and recognition during the National Conference. The winner is also featured in the official NACUFS magazine, Campus Dining Today®. The competition is sponsored by US Foods, Cintas and Hormel Foods.

This content is in service of our education mission and is sponsored by the University of Houston. It is not a product of our news team.