Inside the Story: Utah chef is National Chef of the Year
The nation's top chef is right here in Utah.
"I was born to cook," said Chef Todd Leonard.
Chef Leonard comes with quite the resume.
He is the department chair of Utah Valley University's Culinary Art Institute, one of the country's top professional cooking programs.
He oversees some 200 students throughout the day.
"The students get a journey here," Leonard said.
Inside his office are dozens of prestigious awards he has won over the years.
But now he carries a new title--National Chef of the Year.
"I couldn't be more happy. It was super," Leonard said. "Never been done in Utah and it's been since 1997 anyone from the western region has won."
The national competition was held in New Orleans.
Leonard and his team had 60 minutes to prepare a four-course meal.
They spent hundreds of hours practicing over the summer to perfect the dishes.
"It was fast! Fast and furious," he laughed.
Chef Leonard wasn't the only one to bring home a national championships. UVU competed in four different categories at the competition and brought home two national championships.
"In my opinion, it's almost as good as the basketball NCAA. For cooking, it's kind of what it is," Leonard said.
Leonard's passion for cooking started at a very young age. You could say it was Scout camps that got him hooked.
"I was cooking over an open fire and I just loved it," he said. "Then I started cooking for family and friends."
Leonard got chef jobs in hotels, country clubs, and restaurants.
And twelve years ago, he landed at UVU.