2019 | Athan Spanos, Pennsylvania State University

Chef Spanos

At Pennsylvania State University, Chef Athan Spanos is responsible for all food service operations including, menu design, special events and catering. Prior to his current position, Spanos held positions as Chef de Cuisine at Trevi 5 Restaurant at the Hotel Hershey, Chef Tournant at the Hotel Hershey, and 33 East Restaurant & Lounge in Williamsport, PA.  Spanos specializes in Italian cuisine, classical and regional cuisine, as well as local American farm-to-table cuisine.

In his own words…

“I grew up in Carlisle, Pennsylvania with my brother and sister.  Through most of high school and into college, I worked in my father’s restaurant, ‘John’s Hideaway.’  Soon after graduating from Carlisle High School in 2001, I was accepted to the Pennsylvania College of Technology.  There I obtained my Associates and Applied Science Degree in Culinary Arts, graduating in 2005.  My wife, Rachel, and I met in college and we married in 2007.  I first started working at Hotel Hershey in 2005 as a line cook in the Circular Dining Room.  From there I worked my way up the culinary ladder, becoming the first culinary staff in the hotel to become a Sous Chef.  I worked as a Tournant Chef for two years.  I applied for the position of Chef de Cuisine at Trevi 5, and earned the role with a six-course menu tasting.  During my time with the historic Hotel Hershey I did a variety of events such as Central PA Super Chef, Dark Chocolate: The New Dessert Media Event which was held in New York City at Gary’s Loft, ACF Events & Wine Dinners with Chef Hans J. Schadler, McCormick Company Board Dinner and Chef Dinners with Chef Michael Solomonov (chef owner of Zahav). After eleven good years with the Hotel Hershey, I started a new chapter in my culinary career with Penn State University in 2016.  I am currently the managing chef at Pennsylvania State University - Harrisburg, working with my team to create some amazing dishes for our guest’s here on campus. I currently live in Palmyra with my wife Rachel, daughter Eva, and son Ilias.   

For hobbies, I enjoy all outdoor sports, snowboarding, martial arts, cross-fit, golfing, running, and farming with my father-in-law on his land in Waymart, PA.  My wife and I enjoy working in the garden at our home and making new dishes with the fresh food we grow.”

Spanos won the 2019 Culinary Challenge with his dish Juniper & Fennel Crusted Venison Chop, Delicata Squash & Trumpet Royale Hash, Sunchoke Ravioli, Truffle Parmesan Foam, Root Vegetable Chip, Sour Cherry Reduction 

2018 | Humberto Espinal, Yale University 

Humberto's culinary career began early on, inspired by his mother and his love for seafood, he
started part-time in the dish room at a Spanish restaurant in New York. Self-taught and extremely
motivated, he worked his way through various restaurants before ending up as Chef de partie at a
New Haven restaurant institution.

Humberto continued to seek opportunities to further develop his own creativity and joined Yale
Hospitality in 2014 and now can be found at the "Global Cuisine" platform.

2017 | Robert Bankert, University of Massachusetts

ACF gold medal for his dish, "Pork Loin wrapped with Porcini Farce & Confit Fat Cap, Polenta, braised wild mushrooms & kale, skillet roasted fennel, apricot glaze"

Chef Bob Bankert grew up in the restaurant industry, working at his family's restaurant in upstate New York at a young age. Bob quickly realized that he wanted to continue to immerse himself in cooking and attended the New England Culinary Institute after high school.

In 2014, Chef Bob moved to Amherst, MA to become Chef de Cuisine at the award-winning UMass Amherst Dining Services. Chef Bob brought a lot of new ideas and inspiration to the menus at UMass Amherst, including a focus on sustainable seafood, and has helped UMass become #1 in the nation for Best Campus Food.

Outside of work, Bob loves spending time with his wife and two girls, as well as running, brewing beer, and traveling. 

2016 | Charu Chandra Pant, University of Notre Dame

Charu has been a part of the University of Notre Dame's Campus Dining Team since 2007. Currently he serves as an Executive Chef for the University’s South Dining Hall, one of the two dining hall on campus which serves three -3000 meals per day. He had been the test kitchen chef as well as Retail Executive Chef at the university before moving to South Dining Hall. ACF gold medal for his dish, "Seared Lamb with Red Rice Pilaf, Tourneed Turnips with Sweet Tomato Sauce, Cucumber Mint Raita, and Rich Tomoato Shorba." 

2015 | Cassie Kelsch, University of Utah

ACF gold medal for her dish, "Pan seared bison flank steak with huckleberry demi." 

Cassie attended Manila High School and while in high school volunteered to cook meals for the homeless, firefighters, the local police force and helped in bake sales and fundraisers for our school as well. 

Currently Cassie works for Chartwells Higher Education at the University of Utah to gain experience and train with the corporate and executive chefs to give her a firm ground before going to culinary school at the Utah Valley University in 2016. By competing in this competition, she feels it will push her and bring her closer to reaching her goal in this industry, which would be to learn and become the best chef she can, and maybe one day be the Executive Chef of her own restaurant. 

2014 | Matthia Joseph Accurso, University of Massachusetts

ACF gold for his dish, "Slow cooked lobster with kale tortellini, citrus glazed carrots, celery root, and fennel butter sauce."

Matthia Accurso spent 8 years acquiring his training and education as the Sous Chef for the University Club at the University of Missouri. During this time he acquired his Certified Chef de Cuisine status from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. After that he spent 3 years as the Executive Sous Chef for the prestigious Metropolitan Club of Washington D.C. before coming to the University of Massachusetts to be the chef of the catering department.

2013 | Bryce Benes, Orange Coast College

ACF gold medal for his dish, "Duo of Duck: Crispy Pan Seared Breast with Cherry Gastrique/Cassoulet Style Confit." 

After receiving his associate's degree in culinary arts, Bryce worked in restaurants for several years until moving to Orange County, California in 2005, where he was hired as a cook for Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. Bryce has traveled to Germany to see the Culinary Olympics, and has visited the flavorful Tuscan region of Italy. In 2011, he achieved the rank of Certified Chef de Cuisine by the American Culinary Federation. He has worked for one of California's top catering companies and recently started doing work for an award-winning food truck. He also enjoys teaching culinary classes to the public as a community education instructor.  

2012 | Laura Marie Strunk, University of Notre Dame

ACF gold medal for her dish, "Citrus-Cured Sauteed Flounder with Vanilla Bean Beurre Blanc and Panko Fennel Crusted Fried Oyster and Citrus Pearls with Pan Caramelized Rutabaga and Carrots, Black Barley Pilaf and Zucchini Coulis." 

Laura began her career in 1997, as an American Culinary Federation apprentice at the University of Notre Dame. Upon completion, Laura accepted the position of Floor Chef at the University's North Dining Hall. She later accepted the position of Chef, responsible for the production of all catering function meals, serving over 8,000 events yearly. In 2006, Laura won the Midwest Regional Culinary Challenge, went on to receive a bronze medal at the National Culinary Challenge and achieved her goal by becoming a Certified Executive Chef through the American Culinary Federation. 

2011 | Kris Saradpon, San Diego State University

ACF gold medal for his dish, "The Tri-Tip Trio." 

After earning his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at the University of California, San Diego, Kris pursued his passion for food at Grossmont Community College where he simultaneously earned two Associate of Occupational Sciences degrees in Culinary Arts and Baking & Pastry, respectively. Under the guidance of Culinary Olympics Gold Medalist and Grossmont College chef instructor Joe Orate, Kris found his passion for culinary competitions. Kris has earned many culinary awards and has been a Cold Prep Kitchen Assistant Manager at San Diego State University for over three years. He enjoys overcoming the changing challenges that each new day brings.

2010 | Kylie Charter, Rhode Island School of Design

ACF silver medal for her dish "stuffed salmon, vegetables and Muscat mustard crème, served with Portobello gnudi and pea green and radish salad". 

Charter holds two bachelor’s degrees, one in culinary arts and one in culinary nutrition, from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, RI. She graduated Magna Cum-Laude and was awarded the Aprenti Cuisinier award for excellence in her field of study. Since working at RISD, Kylie has been teaching cooking classes and working on programs and events that focus on sustainability and supporting local farmers, artisans and bakers.

2009 | Nathan Mileski, Northern Michigan University

Under Nathan's direction, Bayside Dining, the resort's fine dining restaurant, was featured in the December 2006 Michigan editions of Gourmet and Bon Appétit as one of twelve "Great Restaurants of America", and also in Savor Michigan Cookbook as one of thirty-six featured chefs. Nathan has received two ACF Upper Michigan Chef of the year awards (1997 & 2002) as well as ACF Certified Executive Chef status in January 2009. Nathan has also served as ACF Upper Michigan Chapter president from 2000-2004, as well as chairman of the board from 2005-2009.

2008 | Anthony Jung, University of Massachusetts

ACF gold medal for his entrée "Morel Crusted Striped Bass with Asparagus Broth, Dijon Gnocchi, and Carrot Batonnet". Anthony Jung is the chef at the newly renovated Berkshire Dining Commons, a 12 station concept dining facility, featuring Asian stir-fry, brick oven pizza, grill, bakery, and a traditional pho-noodle station. Berkshire Dining Commons was awarded best renovation from Food Management Magazine.  In 2006 Anthony was awarded a gold medal at the NACUFS Northeast Regional and placed second at nationals. In 2007 Anthony was awarded gold again at the Northeast Regional.  Also in 2007 Anthony captained a rookie UMass team to an ACF silver medal at the Flavors of the World Conference held at UMass.

2007 | Barry Greenberg, University of Iowa-Memorial Union

ACF silver medal for his entrée "Asian Bento Box".

Greenberg began his formal culinary career by attending Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Upon graduating from the Culinary Arts program, he worked in kitchens of great resorts in Vermont, Martha’s Vineyard, Vail, and San Diego. He returned to school and completed his management degree in 1992. Greenberg received his Executive Chef’s Certification (CEC) from the American Culinary Federation in 2003, and has been actively involved with various culinary and recipe competitions, which include winning the ACF Gold Medal at the Upper Midwest Restaurant Show and the top honors in the Cattlemen’s ‘Best of the Barbecue’ recipe competition. 


2006 | Edward Castillo, Rice University

ACF gold medal for his entrée "Pan-Seared Chicken Supreme with Porcini Mushroom Sauce". Castillo has always had a big passion for cooking.  At an early age he began watching his mother create all the delicious food of the southwest.  His passion grew more and landed him in the Art Institute of Houston, where he graduated in 2001 with a culinary degree.

2005 | Sebastian Nieto, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey