SUNY Delhi Culinary Team Competes Internationally for First Time

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Delhi’s culinary team practices days before departing for Costa Rica. From left to right are Parris Sewer, Tom Downey, Sakari Smithwick and Alex Johnson.

DELHI, NY (06/03/2016)(readMedia)-- SUNY Delhi's culinary team will compete for the first time internationally in the Copa Culinaria, Culinary World Cup Junior, May 31-June 2, in Costa Rica.

Delhi's five-member team was the only one selected to represent the United States against Costa Rica, Bahamas, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. This opportunity was made possible due to a longstanding relationship between SUNY Delhi and American Culinary Federation Chef Louis Perrotte.

"We are all so proud of this tremendous team of students and their coaches," said Dr. David Brower, Interim Provost. "We are confident that they will represent SUNY Delhi and the United States very well. We look forward to continuing the tradition of providing a world-class culinary education to students through unique applied learning opportunities such as the Copa Culinaria."

The team will create a three-course meal, 12 portions each, in two and half hours. Judges from all of over the world will determine the first, second and third place winners.

Delhi's team has been vigorously practicing 35-40 hours weekly since late February, according to Chef Sean Pehrsson, who coaches the team with Chef James Margiotta. "This will be very different from the competitions we've competed in before," said Chef Pehrsson. "In addition to the pressure of producing over 30 dishes in the time allotted, temperature and humidity will be a factor." Pehrsson explained that the competition will take place in the Centro De Eventos Pedregal in San Jose where temperatures can rise into the 80s with humidity over 80 percent in June.

Delhi's team is Parris Sewer of Elmont (captain), Sakari Smithwick of Amityville, Thomas Downey of Goshen, Alex Johnson of Herkimer, and Oboseoye Ojeaga of New York City who serves as the team's apprentice. Ojeaga ensures that the team works smoothly and completes dishes on time, and provides constructive feedback to teammates to guarantee continuous improvement.

Both Johnson and Ojeaga have never traveled outside of the United States. "I'm more nervous about the travel than the competition. Food is my comfort," said Johnson. "We are confident that if we do as well as we've been doing in practice, we'll make Delhi proud."

Smithwick said the team works like a well-oiled machine, stating that the five have a strong rapport in and out of the kitchen. "It's important to know that your team has your back. We even hang out on our own time."

The Delhi culinary majors created a menu that represents the indigenous foods of America, many of which have been sourced from Delaware County. The menu includes an appetizer of shrimp roulade in a Newburg sauce with a corn sponge, hush puppies and succotash. The entrée is a duo of beef-a cast iron-seared New York strip and a braised short rib-with bourbon barbecue sauce and a port-infused demi-glace accompanied by a mushroom spinach cup, mushroom flutes, carrot-apple puree, and a vegetable medley. The dessert is a peanut-banana mousse with a chocolate glaze accompanied by a Concord grape sorbet, peanut butter financiers and mixed fruit. "It's a riff off of peanut butter and jelly," adds Sewer who originated the recipe.

"Just imagine the logistics of traveling with the variety of ingredients and the equipment we have," said Chef Pehrsson. "But this is an incredible opportunity for these students and we hope to give them the experience of winning internationally."

In addition to the excitement of competing on the world stage, SUNY Delhi's culinary team will be featured nationally on cable television in an episode of the Food Network's "Farmhouse Rules" with Nancy Fuller.

The team's participation in Copa Culinaria is generously supported by funds donated by Maple Leaf Farms of Leesburg, Ind.

SUNY Delhi's Culinary Arts programs offer graduates a firm foundation from which to start their careers as professionals. Students can choose from a variety of specialized courses depending on their interest or direction in the field, including advanced meat cutting, culinary competition, advanced pastries and confections, and culinary sculpting, a course in which students learn to sculpt 300-pound ice blocks made in the campus lab. A capstone course, Signatures by Candlelight, gives students the experience of operating a full-service, fine dining restaurant that is open to the public.

Culinary Arts is part of SUNY Delhi's award-winning Hospitality Management Department. Delhi offers two- and four-year degree programs in Hotel and Resort Management, Restaurant and Foodservice Management, Event Management, and Culinary Arts.

The American Culinary Federation, Inc., established in 1929, is the premier professional organization for culinarians in North America. With more than 20,000 members spanning 225 chapters nationwide, ACF is the culinary leader in offering educational resources, training, apprenticeships and programmatic accreditation.

For more information about SUNY Delhi's Culinary Arts program, visit