AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – A chef from UMass Amherst is the Northeast regional winner of this year’s National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS) 2023 Culinary Challenge.

The annual competition was held at the Hotel UMass in Amherst. Chef Jeffrey MacDonald from UMass Amherst was named the Northeast regional winner for his Stuffed Prosciutto Wrapped Pork Tenderloin and Braised Smoked Pork Belly. This was MacDonald’s first time competing in the competition.

“It took a lot of practicing, just refining everything down to what I need for the competition,” MacDonald said. “I’m very proud to represent the University of Massachusetts. A lot of the other chefs there have won it as well, so I feel honored to be in the same group as them. Looking ahead to National, I’ll keep practicing, keep refining the dish and try to take it to the next level.”

Chef Athan Spanos of Pennsylvania State University was also named the Mid-Atlantic regional winner for his Sous Vide Shichimi Togarashi Pork Loin, Kimchi Pork Cabbage Roll, “Tonkotsu Foam,” Sesame Noodles, Pickled Persimmons and Umami Mushrooms. Spanos has won the National Culinary Championship in the past, but was surprised and is excited to compete again.

“It was a hard competition – very, very hard,” Spanos said. “I definitely feel like my dish informs what I’m going to cook for the students now at Penn. I’m going to make some adjustments in the recipe for the national competition, but I think this whole conference really enlightened me. It gave me a boost of energy and a little bit of confidence to go further.”

MacDonald and Spanos will compete in the national level competition at the NACUFS 2023 National Conference on July 19-22 in Baltimore.