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Corey Cozzens sweeps top 3 awards at Spice on Ice competition

March 31st, 2012 Posted in Arts and Life

Story and photo by Steve Kent

NORTH LOGAN — Utah State University was in the spotlight Thursday at the 2012 Spice on Ice chef cook-off. Corey Cozzens, catering sous chef of University Catering at USU, swept the awards, winning Judges’ Choice, People’s Choice and Chef of the Year at the annual fundraiser.

Cozzens said he regarded the award as an important honor for himself and for those he works with. “(University) Catering needed this,” Cozzens said. “We’ve come up with people’s choice, we’ve had judge’s choice, but we’ve never had Chef of the Year.”

Chefs from six local restaurants and catering services competed in the competition, presenting a dish prepared for 300 guests. Cozzens went up against Barney Northrop of Hamilton’s Steak and Seafood, Eliseo Garcia of Belle Monte, Brennon McKnight of Beehive Grill, Ash Oberoi of Indian Oven and Gordon and Rosa Brewster of Mis Amores. Northrop won runner-up for Judges’ Choice and People’s choice.

The event was held in the George S. Eccles Ice Center. A floor of bright blue, interlocking rubber mats covered the ice and guests dined in a space more commonly home to hockey teams and ice skaters. Floyd Naegle, the ice center’s executive director, said the flooring helps keep guests at a comfortable temperature while protecting the ice.

“That floor almost acts like an insulator, so the (heat) doesn’t hurt it,” Naegle said. “We turn it up about 6 or 8 degrees. It’s pleasant. It’s about 60 degrees, but if you get a bunch of bodies out there it’s more like 65.”

Mendon resident Cary Ruggles commented on the venue. “It’s interesting that it’s on ice. It’s a little bit on the chilly side,” he said.

Ruggles, who moved to Cache Valley from the Salt Lake area about 20 years ago, said a competition like Spice on Ice could help restaurants that make a strong showing in a tough market.

“In Logan, you have a very short period of time to either make it or break it,” Ruggles said. “A new restaurant in town really has a very short window because you have a very limited population base. It’s a lot different from the Salt Lake market.”

Ruggles said he and his wife have seen restaurants go out of business after failing to make an impression in that short window. “We’ve gone in restaurants that were brand-new and predicted that they were going to fail after eating there once and been right on the mark,” Ruggles said. “I don’t like to see businesses go out of business, so it’s kind of hard to see that, but they need to do it right or they don’t last long.”

Proceeds from the event will go toward the operating costs of the ice center, helping the nonprofit venue stay open through its slow season, Naegle said.

“It’s not like the winter months, when hockey and figure skating and curling and a lot of these things are going on,” Naegle said. “So we do this fundraiser at this time to kind of help us through the summer, because we still offer our programs year-round and encourage everybody to come in and cool off during the summer.”

Greg Chambers, chef and owner of Firehouse Pizzeria, said Spice on Ice Chef of the Year Award is a coveted prize in Cache Valley’s culinary community. “If you win Chef of the Year, it’s pretty cool,” Chambers said.

Dishes were judged on several weighted categories, including aroma, temperature, texture, presentation and flavor, Chambers said.

USU played a large role in Thursday’s event. The university’s Dining Services donated cutlery and the time of about 30 staff members and dietetic students to cater the event. Janet Anderson, associate dean of the College of Agriculture, was the head judge for the competition, and USU sports programs provided items for the live auction.

Naegle said the university’s involvement had nothing to do with the choice of the winner. Judges were sequestered and didn’t know which dish came from which chef, he said.

According to Chambers, the competition was close and judges scored individual dishes similarly.


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