Montana State chef to participate in regional culinary competition

BOZEMAN — A chef with Montana State University’s Culinary Services Division will participate in a regional challenge on Monday that recognizes expertise and skill among collegiate dining professionals.

The National Association of College and University Food Services’ Culinary Challenge will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. March 25 at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center in Tacoma, Washington.

Chefs from colleges and universities throughout the association’s Continental and Pacific regions will face off against each other and against the clock to prepare an original recipe. Competitors must use provided ingredients to build a nutritionally balanced plate including a starch, vegetables and sauce.

Dan Kelley, chef de cuisine at MSU, will be one of the competing chefs. His dish, called Surf and Earth Tacos, features a branzino filet, shrimp and arugula sausage, orzo and bulgur pilaf, bulgur tortillas, pickled radish, tomato, pineapple and jalapeno sauces.

“I am excited for the opportunity to represent MSU in the Culinary Challenge,” Kelley said. “I am looking forward to seeing the other dishes and learning from so many people.”

In addition to Kelley, competitors hail from Brigham Young University, Laramie County Community College in Wyoming, University of Montana, University of Utah and University of Wyoming. Winners from the regional competition will advance to the national culinary challenge, set for July 17-20 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kelley began working at MSU in August 2022 after many years in the private sector. He started as executive sous chef and was promoted to chef de cuisine. In that role he is responsible for overseeing the development of staff and menus at MSU’s award-winning Miller Dining Commons. Kelley attended his first National Association of College and University Food Services conference in 2023.

MSU’s Culinary Services Division provides more than 12,000 meals daily to the university’s students, faculty, staff and visitors. Among other goals, it aims to offer various cuisines, cooking styles and flavors; provide high-quality food and service; offer well-balanced meals; and keep up with current dining trends; and use Montana-sourced ingredients when possible. More information is available at