Chef de Cuisine at UNI receives bronze at Regional Culinary Competition

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – Rob Hamilton, Chef de Cuisine at the University of Northern Iowa, was awarded a bronze medal at the American Culinary Federation (ACF) sanctioned National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Culinary Challenge held March 27 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Rob Hamilton

Competitors faced off against the clock to prepare a creative entrée, which featured a mandatory combination of littleneck clams, whole squid and oysters to create an appetizing and inviting plate. This 80-minute competition consisted of five minutes to set their station, 60 minutes to fabricate and cook, 10 minutes to plate, and five minutes to clean up and exit their station. This live competition recognizes outstanding organization, cooking skills, culinary technique, taste and style. Hamilton’s entrée was a Cioppino featuring the three mandatory ingredients. Six university chefs contended for a chance to compete at the national level this July in Providence, Rhode Island.

Hamilton joined UNI Catering & Events in August 2017 and received recognition for Best Beef Entry at the local Beers To You And Gourmet Too in January. This is the first time he has competed in the NACUFS Culinary Challenge.

Janet Despard, UNI’s director of dining and former president of NACUFS, was part of the original project team who created and brought the Culinary Challenge to NACUFS. “Three of the six competitors earned bronze medals, including the winning chef who will compete at the National Culinary Challenge, which means point totals were incredibly close and is a testament to Rob’s skills and abilities. It is not typical for a first-time competitor to earn a medal. I am incredibly proud of Rob!”

UNI Catering & Events provides full-service catering and event planning on the University of Northern Iowa campus, catering more than 800 events and serving over 10,000 guests each year. For more information, visit


Janet Despard, director of dining, UNI Department of Residence, 319-273-2333,