UMass Dining Chef Bob Wins NACUFS Award

Chef Bob receiving the gold medal from the NACUFS Culinary Challenge in Nashville, Tenessee. 

In March, UMass Dining attended the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Culinary Challenge, which is a competition between five regions held in Nashville, Tennessee. Our very own Chef Robert Bankert competed at the annual competition and won first place and a gold medal!   

Chef Bob is one of our best culinary leaders at UMass Dining. His passion, innovation, and local foods expertise set him apart in and out of the kitchen. Chef Bob has been working with UMass Dining for 3.5 years now and is the Chef de Cuisine at Hampshire and Berkshire Dining Commons. Chef Bob explained that he “grew up in the restaurant industry and fell in love with cooking at a young age.” Before working for UMass Dining, Chef Bob worked at the forefront of sustainability through Farm Fresh Rhode Island. “It has always been a passion of mine to bring sustainability into cuisine. I’ve always been really focused on building relationships with local farmers and using as much local, seasonal food as I can.” At UMass Dining, Chef Bob has been an integral part of incorporating local and seasonal foods into our menus. For example, the culinary team stores root vegetables and butternut squash as well as utilizing local greens grown year-round, so every season maximizes the freshest produce possible.   Picture Chef Bob preparing a dish in Berkshire Dining Commons. 

A beautiful salad created by Chef Bob using ultra-local ingredients from UMass Permaculture and the Student Farming Enterprise. 

According to Chef Bob, “building relationships with farmers is the most important part of sourcing local foods.” Because of the tremendous buying power of an institution like UMass, large changes can be made to the food system through local sourcing initiatives over time. “However, tremendous amounts of purchasing, if handled poorly, can really affect farmers if there is not an open line of communication and relationship there,” Chef Bob clarified.    

UMass Dining has a goal for all of the Dining Commons to feature all local lettuce and greens on the salad bar all year long, and has already committed to sourcing local arugula, romaine, and mesclun. Queen’s Greens is playing an integral part in reaching this goal by supplying local greens to UMass Dining in colder months using greenhouses to extend their growing season. 

Picture Chef Bob’s delicious lettuce wraps made with local and regional chicken. Picture International dish prepared by Chef Bob for UMass Dining’s Poultry Gathering. 

“I just love food and flavors and I like to teach people how to cook. Food is satisfying in a lot of different ways and brings people together.” 
– Chef Bob, UMass Dining 
Thanks so much Chef Bob for taking the time for this interview and for all of your hard work to make UMass Dining more sustainable!