The squash has a story
Scott Pobuda became Dining Services’ new executive chef in 2015, bringing more than two decades of experience working in fine dining and corporate establishments, including NCR Country Club and Great American Ballpark. This fall, Pobuda gained recognition in the regional dining scene when one of his plates claimed victory at a popular charity event. Even better — the dish literally had UD roots.
Q: What attracted you to the position at UD?
A: I worked for three years at NCR Country Club and I was planning to stay there for a while, but when I heard that Chef Herbert (Schotz) was retiring after 28 years at UD, that said something right there about the quality of the job. I had two daughters in high school and I knew UD was a great school so it was a smart decision. My oldest daughter is now a sophomore here and my youngest is a high school senior and applied for admission for next year.
Q: Tell us more about the contest you won.
A: The March of Dimes holds a fundraiser every October where about 400 people pay to try meals from different local chefs. The chefs are asked to come up with an appetizer plate. This year, I won both the people’s choice award and the judges’ award. It’s never happened before where someone's won both of them.
Q: What did you make?
A: The judges and guests are looking for more of a complete meal with small portions, so I entered a dish similar to one I originally made at the president's house — a seared beef tenderloin. You have to put on a bit of a show, so I did a carving station with the heat turned up and sliced the beef for each guest, then put it on top of butternut squash mashed potatoes. I used some oyster mushrooms and dried them to concentrate the flavor, and added a little port wine demi-glace.
Q: The squash has a story, doesn't it?
A: I visited the UD garden by the Old River Park complex in the summer and the students said they were growing butternut squash. I told them I was pondering squash for my competition because I knew it was an October event and I wanted a seasonal dish. I was able to tell everyone at the event that the squash was locally grown.
Q: What types of meals do you make at UD?
A: I'm lucky that we get the chance to do events for the president, for conferences and other different upscale gatherings. I get to pull out old ideas or some new things I've seen and learned that I want to try. There are some high level events where you could really go all out. During the Social Practice of Human Rights conference in October, I was challenged because I had to make a whole menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner for three days for a group of national and international guests while incorporating themes of sustainability. It was a lot of fun.
Q: How did you become interested in pursuing cooking as a career?
A: It's a great story. My grandmother was Swedish and was incredible in the kitchen. My grandparents had a nice house in Minnesota on a lake, and when I’d visit, I’d drill her with questions while she was making dinner. It probably drove her crazy, but she was patient with me. I always knew I really liked cooking from a young age. I used to make dinner for my family once a week, usually Wednesday, and it was just tacos or something simple, but I enjoyed it. When I turned 16, I got a job in a pizza place where they did it the old-fashioned way where you threw the dough up in the air. On a Friday or Saturday night it got so busy. I loved the rush of everything and that's when I knew this is what I wanted to do.