Lyn Wells with Chef Adalberto Diaz.
Utah Valley University Senior and home town girl Lyn Wells has been named the 2013 Western Regional Student Chef of the Year. Wells, who hails from Wellington, took the title by winning a culinary skill competition held in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho between April 12-15 as part of the American Culinary Federation's Regional Conference (ACF).
"It was an amazing experience," said Wells, before leaving her parent's restaurant at the Cowboy Club to return to classes in Orem. "The competition couldn't have gone any better."
According to Wells, the competition's four judges were impressed with the manner in which she worked in the kitchen and commented that her food "ate well together."
"I screwed up a couple of components," she said, critiquing her own work. "I broke my mousse for the chicken and I thought I over-salted the tomatoes but the judges seemed to like what I had done. There were things I could have done better. Overall, I felt my dish was great other than a few flaws."
Wells' winning dish was entitled "Chicken Compose" which consisted of roasted chicken breast; chicken and potato croquette; pepper, basil and prosciutto roulade, chicken crackling and chicken-fat poached potato tournÃ©; roasted King Oyster and Idaho morel mushrooms; roasted eggplant and squash with tomato fondue; spring horseradish puree and mushroom fortified chicken jus.
Wells changed the dish just prior to the ACF Conference after receiving some advice from judges at a practice competition. She had initially planned a Mediterranean theme a chicken roulade cut in half with an olive mousse but changed when the practice judges commented that the dish needed to be focused more on chicken.
"At high level competitions like the ACF, the main ingredient they choose must be strongly represented," said Wells before going to Coeur d'Alene. "I have been practicing a lot and feel ready for this."
Ready she was. After her performance, one of the five judges who had watched her every move stated via a USU press release, "Wow. We judges learned some things from this young lady. She has techniques that none of us have ever seen before."
As the ACF's Western Region Student Chef of the Year, Wells will now have the opportunity to compete against three other regional winners for the national honor of the United State's best student chef. The national ACF conference will take place in Las Vegas at the Cosmopolitan from July 21-25.
"The most difficult part of these competitions is cooking in a kitchen you are not used to," said Wells. "But I'm getting better at that. For nationals, I will have to prepare two dishes and two plates so everything will be a little more difficult, a little more of a challenge."
If her educational and competition record mean anything, the Las Vegas competition should prepare for Wells. She is the first UVU student to be named Student Chef of the Year. In the three hot-food competitions she has competed in as a member of the university's culinary student team. She has received four gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze medal in sanctioned events. In July 2012, she served as an apprentice for National Pastry Chef of the Year Adalberto Diaz.
While Wells has always dreamed of owning her own restaurant, she hopes to have the opportunity to work with chefs from around the world and hone her craft before striking out on her own. According to UVU, Wells is also a member of ACF Beehive Chefs Chapter, Inc.