By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart

On July 19 2023, Chef Michael Stamets, SUNY Broome Associate Dean for Hospitality and Culinary Event Center (CEC), was named the American Culinary Federation Chef Educator of the Year at the 2023 ACF National Convention in New Orleans, LA.

The ACF Chef Educator of the Year award pays tribute to an active culinary educator whose knowledge, skills, and expertise have enhanced the image of the professional chef, and who, by example, has given leadership, guidance and direction to students seeking a career in the culinary profession. This person demonstrates the ability to help students define and develop their careers by using their skills and abilities to provide a strong foundation for their future success.

At the 2023 ACF National Convention, Chef Stamets instructed a group of culinary professionals in a classroom, setting while preparing a spinach and “ricotta” buckwheat crepe with sautéed mélange of summer vegetables, sweet corn emulsion, and greens with white balsamic vinaigrette. The dish was plant-based, vegan, and gluten-free. 

“Each competitor was given 10 minutes to set up and break down their station, 50 minutes to simultaneously teach and prepare the dish, and 10 minutes to facilitate a question and answer session. Timing is so critical. We spent almost two and a half months practicing not just the creation of the dish, but the timing behind it,” said Stamets. 

Stamets’ decision to compete with a plant-based, vegan, and gluten-free dish was rooted in education. 

“At its core, culinary education is teaching people about food. As a chef, I don’t regularly cook with many of the ingredients that I used in this dish, but it was both a wonderful teaching and learning exercise for me,” explained Stamets. “Our students are being trained to work in kitchens across the region (and beyond) and many of those kitchens include vegan and gluten free dishes on their menus to make dining accessible to all dietary preferences.”

As a proud New Yorker and BOCES graduate, Chef Stamets wanted to incorporate as many fresh, local ingredients into his dish as possible. The sweet corn emulsion was made from corn from Stamets’ friend’s farm in Unadilla, NY and he highlighted the dish with maple syrup that was tapped, filtered, and boiled by the students at our local Broome-Tioga BOCES.

“I always tell people that first and foremost, I am a BOCES graduate. I am very proud of the culinary foundation that I received at BOCES and am always looking for ways to collaborate with our local programs, especially through articulation agreements,” said Stamets. “ I was recently added to BOCES’ Culinary Hall of Fame and I consider that to be an incredible honor.” 

Chef Michael Stamets came to SUNY Broome in the fall of 2021 from SUNY Schenectady, where he served as an Associate Professor for the School of Hotel, Culinary Arts, and Tourism for just under a decade.  Prior to his time at SUNY Schenectady, Michael  had an extensive career as both an Executive Chef and Chef de Cuisine. Stamets is part of a very select cohort of less than 100 ACF certified culinary judges in the United States. ACF certified culinary judges are required to maintain extensive culinary credentials which include a mandatory requirement of personally earning at least four culinary gold medals within the last ten years in either ACF or a major WACS-approved competition. 

Stamets is an ardent believer in the educational and professional value of culinary competitions and eagerly participates in all capacities as a mentor, judge, and competitor. 

“This was a particularly special honor because I was judged by fellow culinary educators, one of whom was named Chef Educator of the Year at the 2022. Two of my mentors are previous recipients of this award, and I am honored to join them.”

Stamets was assisted by fellow SUNY Broome employee, Chef Victoria Tompkins.

President Tony D. Hawkins stopped by the CEC to congratulate Chef Stamets and to pick up a few culinary tips. Photo Credit: Matt Ebbers