Pat Hines cooks up award with tasty food

Diners at Mississippi State's Perry Cafeteria know mouth-watering food is served up daily, but sous chef Pat Hines is proof that the university's high quality cooking can go head-to-head in Southern culinary competition.

Hines advanced to the next level after receiving a silver medal at Aramark's Culinary Excellence competition in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Hines was in Rome, Ga. last Wednesday to compete again, this time with hopes of becoming one of three finalists advancing this summer to a national culinary challenge in Tampa, Fla.

Though she has no formal culinary training, Hines said she began cooking with her mother and grandmother sometime around her fifth or sixth birthday. Now, on any given day in Marketplace at Perry Cafeteria's "Comfort Station," she prepares traditional Southern fare for a clientele made up largely of students and others from around the Southeast.

Hines became sous chef last August after working for MSU Dining Services and its successor, the Aramark Corp., for at total of nine years. She and one other sous chef oversee daily production of meals for about 4,000 students, faculty and staff at the university's historic and primary food service facility.

"I love to cook, and I love to see people happy," Hines said. "We have a team of great chefs here."

Because no two days' dietary schedules are the same, Hines must take into consideration many factors in food preparations, from assisting with menu planning and cooking the correct amounts to inventorying ingredients and achieving just the right flavors.

The regional Aramark competition involved cooking a meal with several ingredients from a "mystery basket" and additional staples on hand. Competing chefs were given three hours from the time they were presented with ingredients to plan and cook a three-course meal, including a plate for each judge and one to showcase their presentation.

"Ms. Pat differentiated from the fierce competition at University of Alabama, and she won the silver medal by putting her down-home twist on the 'mystery basket,'" said Jason Nall, MSU Dining Services executive director.

He described Hines as "a legend of Southern cooking at MSU."

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