MSU Corporate Executive Chef Kurt Kwiatkowski, who graduated from the Eli Broad College of Business in 2005 with a master’s in foodservice management, was honored with the Chef of the Year Award from the Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association (MCCA) on October 1. The recognition was presented at their Annual Awards Gala at Walnut Creek Country Club in South Lyon.
The prestigious award recognizes an active member of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) chapter who has demonstrated the highest standard of culinary skills, reached beyond their daily role to advance food learning and knowledge, and given back to the profession through the development of students and apprentices.
“I have known Chef Kwiatkowski for over fifteen years. The award of Chef of the Year is reflective of his commitment to the highest standards of the hospitality industry and a credit to Michigan State University,” said Allan Sherwin, the Dr. Lewis J. and Mrs. Ruth E. Minor Chef-Professor of Culinary Management at the Eli Broad College of Business.
Carl Borchgrevink, the John and Becky Duffey Faculty Fellow in Hospitality Business and director of the School of Hospitality Business, called Kwiatkowski “inquisitive, interested, tenacious, and applied. He would not accept answers without questioning the foundational facts. He is the type of student of which all faculty members wish there were more.”
For many years, Chef Kurt has assisted with ACF events, shared knowledge through presentations on a wide variety of topics, judged and competed in ACF cooking challenges, and continued to push himself to help forge the culinary industry toward the future.
“This means a great deal to me and I see it as one of the highest awards I’ve ever earned,” he said. “I use free time to compete, attend chapter meetings and hone my craft, so it feels good to be recognized for those efforts.”
In addition to reviewing the candidate’s involvement in ACF and chapter activities, Chef of the Year nominees participate in a timed culinary challenge. Final candidates are given 60 minutes to cook and 10 minutes to plate four servings following ACF standards.
Chef Kurt created a Badamaash Pork Cutlet dish with pork dumpling, asparagus tips, carrots, raita, roasted tomato sauce, cilantro rice and cucumber salad. “I wanted to have some fun with the dish, and had been experimenting at home with Indian flavors,” he said. “Over the years, I have seen a lot of pork not cooked well in competition; I thought a pan-fried cutlet would be a unique direction to take, helping my dish stand out from others.”
As MCCA Chef of the Year, he will compete at the regional level during the ACF ChefConnect event in Minneapolis in March. Later this year, the chosen protein will be revealed to competitors so they have optimal time to prepare.
Before heading to the kitchen for a run-through, Chef Kurt considers options based on the protein chosen, drawing a plate setup with colored pencils to observe the full dish.
“After I have something together that’s good, I’ll practice in front of several mentors and chefs here on campus,” he said. “During each trial run, I get a chance to practice and they have an opportunity to critique the dish and pick up things I might not.”
As a culinarian who is continually looking to improve his skills and learn more, Chef Kurt sees this recognition as the first step toward future accomplishments.
“I’m still a little numb and blown away about receiving the award,” he said. “I hope to win regional and compete at nationals to earn Chef of the Year for the American Culinary Federation.”