AHF Culinary Competition
AHF’s Culinary Competition is a career-changing opportunity for our competing member teams. Five teams of two are selected from self-operated facilities around the country. Each year our five teams compete for Gold, Silver, and Bronze during a 75-minute timed competition with set ingredient options selected from AHF’s curated Market Basket.
Competitors are selected through a rigorous, blinded, selection process. The live competition will take place during our Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas August 23-25, 2024.
Watch the recording of our 2023 Culinary Competition to get prepared and understand how our competition works.
2023 Culinary Competition Results
AHF hosted its 13th annual culinary competition at the Omni Orlando Resort, where five teams representing Indiana, Maryland, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas vied for the title of Healthcare Foodservice Culinary Champion. The challenge involved utilizing mandatory market basket ingredients, along with a mystery ingredient unveiled just 24 hours before the competition.
Teams were required to select at least one item from Market basket A and a minimum of two from Market basket B to craft their unique recipes. These recipes had to adhere to specific nutritional and cost criteria and be suitable for their respective foodservice operations, whether retail, catering, or patient feeding. Additionally, teams had to skillfully incorporate the year’s mystery ingredient, yellow watermelon, into their recipes. The competition was evaluated and winners determined by a panel of five esteemed judges from the foodservice industry, including three past-winners.
|Gold Medal: Jared Hunter and Peter Heine of MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, TX). Dish Name: Red Curry Shrimp with Farro Plantain Cake|
|Silver Medal: Dusty Cooper and Emily Glass of Johns Hopkins Health System (Baltimore, MD). Dish Name: Pan Seared Grouper with Citrus Corn Salad and Broccoli Mole|
|Bronze Medal: Benjamin Robinett and DeCleasha Martin of INTEGRIS Health Baptist (Oklahoma City, OK). Dish Name: BBQ Dry Rub Hickory Smoked Shrimp with Guava Farro|
|Honorable Mention: G. Dugan Wetzel and Jesse Shirley of Eskenazi Health (Indianapolis, IN). Dish Name: Duo Plate of Mojo Gulf Shrimp and Hanger Steak|
|Honorable Mention: Brian Dixson and Brianne George of Geisinger Medical Center (Muncy, PA). Dish Name: Pan Seared Grouper over Blueberry Infused Farro|
2023 Judges Panel
Market Basket A
- Gulf Shrimp
- Portobella Mushroom
- Hanger Steak
- Yellow watermelon
Market Basket B
- Key Limes
- Black Garlic
- Brussel Sprouts
- Swiss Chard
INTEGRIS Health Baptist
Oklahoma City, OK
Chef Benjamin Robinett graduated from Le Cordon Bleu with High Honors in 2001 and quickly established himself as a talented and driven professional. He began his career in Portland, Oregon before moving on to the prestigious Ritz-Carlton Club in Aspen. While there, he had the honor of working with Iron Chef Morimoto during Aspen’s Food and Wine Festival.
Chef Ben has dedicated himself to furthering his knowledge and sharing his expertise with others. He is a certified ServSafe Instructor and Proctor and an advisory board member for the Francis Tuttle Culinary Arts Program. He has served as a contributing writer for So6ix Magazine, Culinary Advisor for Red Rock Premium Beef Company, and worked as an Ice Carver and Culinary Arts Instructor.
Throughout his career, Chef Ben has worked as a private chef to dozens of high-profile clients, including professional athletes, musicians, actors, and public figures, earning a reputation as a discreet and trusted professional. In 2022, Chef Ben accepted the role of System Executive Chef for INTEGRIS Health, where he continues to showcase his talents and dedication to create delicious, healthy meals.
Chef Ben’s dedication and hard work have not gone unrecognized. He has been honored with nominations for Best Chef in Norman Transcripts “Readers’ Choice” in 2021 and 2022, as well as being named one of the Top 4 Best Chefs in 405 Magazine’s “Best of” ballots in 2021. Chef Ben is a true culinary professional, respected by his colleagues and valued by his clients and community.
As an internationally trained Chef turned Food Service Operations Manager, DeCleasha brings a global flair and expertise to the healthcare culinary industry. Possessing a strong passion for creative and innovative cuisine, DeCleasha has spent many years honing her skills in the culinary profession.
DeCleasha began her career as a caterer in Oklahoma, rising through the ranks quickly due to her hard work and dedication. Her culinary skills and creativity were further developed during her time studying abroad in Scotland and Finland, where she learned to master the art of fusion cooking.
With multiple degrees from Oklahoma State University and Turku AMK, she later transitioned to a Food Service Operations Manager role. She has been privileged to apply her culinary expertise in overseeing the day-to-day operations of several high-profile hospital systems. In this role, DeCleasha is required to not only maintain the quality of dining services, but also to ensure efficient and cost-effective operations across the organization.
Beyond her work at INTEGRIS Health, DeCleasha is an active member of the culinary community, incorporating culinary trends and techniques into her cooking. Her passion for food is contagious, as demonstrated by her willingness to freely share her knowledge and expertise with others.
Jared joined the team at MD Anderson in 2021. Jared attended an apprenticeship program through El Centro College and the Texas Chef Association, graduating in 1997. Jared has led culinary teams for Westin Hotels, NRG Stadium, and the Houston Texans. At team MD Anderson, Jared focuses on patient care, delivering our core values one plate at a time.
Peter Heine is from New York City, and graduated from the Art Institute in Houston, Texas. Currently working as a sous chef at MD Anderson. One of my goals is to never stop learning, engaging the next generations of chefs, and delivering our core values one plate at a time.
Johns Hopkins Health System
Dusty Cooper, MBA, CEC, is the Director of Culinary Operations & Corporate Chef for the Johns Hopkins Health System, supporting six healthcare campuses in-patient services, retail, catering, and future development. Her primary goals are to create food that improves patient experience, challenges the notion of “hospital” food, and elevates industry standards.
Dusty has over twenty-six years of culinary experience in college & university, hotels & resorts, and restaurants, having trained as both a savory and pastry chef at California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France.
Emily Glass RD, LDN is a Clinical Nutrition Analyst for the Johns Hopkins Health System. She has over 10 years of food service experience as a Chef and Registered Dietitian. She supports food and culinary operations at six hospitals as a CBORD administrator. Emily focuses on menu development and integrating technology within food service to enhance the patients experience. She received her BS in Culinary Nutrition from Johnson & Wales University.
Geisinger Medical Center
Graduated with a BS Degree in Culinary Arts Technology from the Pennsylvania College of Technology in 2005. This opened the door to work in both upscale and casual dining kitchens throughout central Pennsylvania. I transitioned into the healthcare foodservice industry after graduation and never looked back. I have spent the last 18 years in healthcare foodservice, from preparing daily meals for our patients, employee appreciation meals, to catering events for our executive administration team. I completed my MBA from Bloomsburg University in 2012. Currently, as a regional manager with Geisinger, I support four community hospitals throughout central/north-central Pennsylvania. Alongside site leadership, assisting in implementation and monitoring of policies and procedures. Removing barriers so that our foodservice teams have the proper tools, training, and resources available so that they can provide the best possible care for our patients, visitors and Geisinger family.
My love and passion for food started in my grandmother’s kitchen. Her cooking told a story of togetherness and family, you can only find sharing a meal with your loved ones. She inspired me to go to culinary school. I moved to Atlanta and enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu. After graduation, I worked at several popular restaurants in Atlanta. Petite Auberge, The Red Snapper, and Bazati. My culinary journey has now taken me back to Pennsylvania where I grew up. I’m two years into my new career as a Foodservice Supervisor at Geisinger Medical Center Muncy. I have an extraordinary team there who love cooking for the patients and the visitors in our café.
Chef Dugan Wetzel has been working in the culinary industry for the past 15 years. Currently, he is the Director of Culinary & Systems Executive Chef for Eskenazi Health. He has been with the organization for the past four years. Before coming to Eskenazi, he was the Executive Chef and Culinary Coordinator at Reid Health for 7 years and helped open and run a restaurant/grill-concept focusing on local, scratch based cooking prior to that. His true passion comes from getting to work with all the local farmers and vendors and coming up with new and creative ways to serve the people of Indianapolis.
Chef Wetzel is no stranger to culinary competitions. Winning multiple times in various events throughout Indiana as well as participating in the AHF Culinary competition. In 2022 Chef Wetzel won the IFPA’s Excellence in Foodservice Award for Eskenazi Health’s continued efforts focusing on fresh, local produce. In his free time, he enjoys being with family, playing golf, and coaching his two boys’ sports teams.
Jesse Shirley is the Executive Sous Chef of Retail at Eskenazi Health. Jesse is passionate about Eskenazi’s mission of battling food insecurity in Indianapolis.
Jesse started his culinary career at 14 years old in his Grandmother’s French restaurant and never looked back. Jesse worked as a chef in fine dining and catering establishments in the Indianapolis area and Las Vegas for 20 years before making the switch to healthcare foodservice.
When Jesse is not cooking, placing orders, or making menus at Eskenazi he can be found grilling at home, tinkering with cars, and chauffeuring his children to and from a myriad of sports practices and games.
If you have any questions, please email AHF Staff at email@example.com.
Culinary Competition Past Finalists
Need inspiration? Click below to see a gallery of final plated dishes of past competition finalists.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, there is no maximum, but you are required to use 3 items in Basket B; you can use more if you wish to. Be intentional about it.
Yes, we allowed this in previous years and will allow it again.
No, all ingredients must be provided by AHF or the hotel. Traditionally, Yes. If you wish to bring your own stock, you must find a way to ship it to the hotel and store it safely. The stock must be included in your original recipe and meet the nutritional guidelines.
No, both team members must be from the same facility. Two teams from the same system may apply separately.
Yes, you can submit more than one recipe for consideration if you like. Only one recipe will be selected and only 1 team from your facility will be selected.
6 portions. 5 portions will be served to our judges for tasting and the 6th portion will be for display and photographs.
We plan to notify all applicants at the beginning of June.
No. No additional plug in heat sources are permitted, including sous vide equipment.
No, sous vide cooking is not permitted as a part of this competition.
There are 5 teams of 2, for a total of 10 competitors.
Yes, both dry storage and refrigeration will be available the day prior to the competition. More instructions will be given to selected finalists.
1 hour to wash produce, arrange the space, boil water. No cutting of produce or other prep of ingredients will be permitted.
Market basket ingredients will be provided for you. Any additional ingredients must be picked up before the event. Local grocery stores in Orlando will be provided. If you are shipping any products, shipping instructions will be given to you.
No, AHF will provide sanitation materials and access.
Each team will be given a speed rack with sheet trays that can be used to organize your materials.
Yes, the committee will keep that in consideration when selecting.
No, not if it is not center of the plate.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can provide you with what will be made available.
AHF will provide each team with the 11″ white plates.
We recommend using whatever your hospital uses or a commercial version. Please do not use an open source one from the Internet.
Applicants should use their own costs for the market basket ingredients.
Teams are required to showcase a minimum of two cooking methods to include any 2 of the following techniques: For moist; boil, simmer, steam, braise, stew and poach. For dry heat cooking methods; grill, sauté, roast, bake and fry