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Friday, April 19, 2024 — Houston, TX

Rice chef advances to national competition

By Tina Nazerian     4/6/14 5:38am

Rice University’s Sous Chef Martin de Santiago cooked his way to victory at the National Association of College and Food Service’s Southern Regional Contest March 24-26 in Stillwater, Okla., winning first place and advancing to NACUFS’s national contest to be held in Baltimore, Md. this July.

“I’m excited to go and represent [Rice] and go another step above what I’m used to,” Santiago said.

According to Director of Residential Dining Johnny Curet, NACUFS picks a protein competitors must use in its contests every year, and the protein this year was lobster.

Santiago, who works in Seibel Servery, said he made lobster ravioli using claw meat, wrapped the lobster tail in potato and made lobster sauce.

“I had a lot of trust in my coach, Roger [Elkhouri, senior executive chef of South Servery],” Santiago said. “We came up with the plate together. The idea of the competition is to use as much as you can of the lobster.”

According to Santiago, the three American Culinary Federation certified judges watch competitors from the beginning of the one-hour time limit. Santiago said he made sure to practice making the dish before the competition.

“You [have] to practice and practice and practice,” Curet said. “You’re trying to get not only your skill set down, but you [have] to get your timing down, [while being mindful of] how clean your station is. There’s a lot to it, and all those things are very important to the judges to make a decision on the winner.”

Santiago said he started cooking in high school, watching his mother cook at home and helping her in the kitchen.

“I started growing a passion for cooking, and I decided to go into culinary school [at] San Jacinto College. From there, I came into Rice, where I started to grow into culinary food and learning more.”

Will Rice College sophomore Daniel Du said he finds Santiago’s win exciting and is happy for his success

“I eat his food at East [Servery] almost everyday,” Du said. “It’s really cool to see him make it to the finals.”

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