Cooking Up Excellence

Executive Chef Brian Jones sets sights on national championship

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jul 8, 2019) — Before joining Kennesaw State’s University Dining as an executive chef, Brian Jones honed his craft in some of Atlanta’s most iconic restaurants: Restaurant Eugene, Canoe, Watershed and The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta. On Thursday, his culinary prowess will be put to the ultimate test as he represents the University in the National Association of College and University Food Service (NACUFS) Culinary Challenge.
Jones, one of six chefs nationwide to qualify for the timed cooking event, earned a berth in the finals by winning the NACUFS Southern Regional Culinary Challenge in March, beating out chefs from Duke University and the University of Miami, among others. The event, sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation (ACF), was open to all culinary professionals employed at member schools.

Jones’ winning plate contained venison saddle, sunflowers, blueberries and sumac, all of which are ingredients found in the environment in which deer live. He had one hour to complete four dishes to demonstrate his organizational skills and culinary technique, as well as the dish’s taste and style. He will have one more opportunity to execute the dish against five other regional winners representing schools such as the University of Notre Dame and the University of Wyoming at the NACUFS National Conference, where the chefs will cook in front of a live audience of college and university food service professionals, industry experts and ACF judges on July 11.

Executive Chef Brian Jones at The Commons on the Kennesaw Campus

“Being able to compete at this kind of level is a testament to the expertise we demonstrate here at the University,” said Jones, who oversees a kitchen brigade that feeds more than 7,000 students, faculty and staff across Kennesaw State’s two campuses daily. “After this competition, I want people to recognize Kennesaw State and begin to learn more about all we have to offer.”
Ahead of the national challenge, Jones was allowed to make adjustments to his original recipe based on recommendations from the regional judges. With the help of chefs in University Dining, he has conducted practice runs on a kitchen set-up similar to that used in the competition. Though he competes alone, he considers his recent success a team effort.
“I get to pull knowledge from an immensely talented team here at KSU with a wide range of experience at some of the South’s best known restaurants,” he said. “The techniques they’ve learned in those kitchens are very easily applied in a University setting, and I absolutely wouldn’t be in this position without their support. At the end of the day, success to us is providing the students with a dining experience they won’t find anywhere else.”
For their efforts, KSU’s University Dining has been consistently ranked among the best collegiate dining services in the country, most recently named No. 9 in the nation among the “Top College Dining Halls” by Best Value Schools and No. 24 in the nation for the “Best College Food in America” by
A graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta, Jones joined University Dining in May 2016. In addition to his extensive restaurant experience, he was selected to participate in the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s 2018 Georgia Grown Executive Chef Program, created to foster relationships between chefs and farmers. As part of the program, he prepared a private dinner using Georgia grown products at the renowned James Beard House.
“I never left the restaurant business, I just switched my hours,” Jones said. “My mentality and drive for perfection is very much the same, and I take to heart creating a memorable dining experience for our students.”

– Travis Highfield

Photos by David Caselli


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit