Things Are Hot And Steamy In This Kitchen
For the 11th year in a row, San Pellegrinoâs âAlmost Famous Chefâ competition, has been heating up kitchens, in culinary schools, all over the country. On January 23, 2013,Â theÂ annual chef’s contest, weaved its way toÂ TheÂ Astor CenterÂ in NYC, forÂ the Northeast regional cook-off. As one of the fortunate food bloggers, invited by The Blogger Connection,Â to get a “behind the scenes” taste of this spectacular event, I relished every minute.Â
San Pellegrino’s “Almost Famous” contest, givesÂ rising young stars, of the Culinary Arts, a chance to compete in the finals in Napa, California. The 1st prize winner, will earn a paid apprenticeship, with a celebrity chef, along with a cash prize of $20,000, which should go a long way, towards paying off some pesky school loans.
Discerning Tastebuds Know
This year’s esteemed panel of judges included:Â Chef Jean FranÃ§ois (Daniel Restaurant), Chef Matt Storch (Match), Chef Jason Weiner (Almond), Chef Laurent Tourondel (BLT), Chef Missy Robbins (A Voce), Alyssa Shelasky (NY Magazine), Dan Myers (The Daily Meal), and Linda Kavanagh (New England Culinary Group).
Not So Hot!
Seohyung Im, who studies at The Institute of Culinary Education, was the first contestant to present her plate, to the judges. While she had red-hot passion for her meal, the judges all agreed, that the temperature of her food, was way too cold.Â
And So Tasty Too!
In the backstage area,Â I observed Yong Shin, who hones his craft, at The International Culinary Center, display a magnificent focus and determination. Observing the plating his dish of soy braised short ribs, was a joy for me to watch. Not only was it gorgeous, but his meal was also, one of the most flavorful of the night.Â
She’s Got The Best Name For A Famous Chef
Amanda Amor, student at Lincoln Culinary Institute, painstakingly prepared Roasted Stuffed Squab with heavenlyÂ Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes, and perfectly timedÂ BrusselÂ Sprouts.
The People Have Eaten And Chosen
Iâm was a tad shocked, that Matthew Grunwald, who is earning his cooking chops, at The Culinary Institute of America, didnât win the first prize. The audience did have some power though, and garnered him with a well deserved, Peopleâs Choice Award, in the shape of a brand new spatula.
Â Had To Have It!
I was too busy taking photos and didnât get to sample this meal,Â so I went scrounging around in the kitchen for one of his plates. I spotted one lonely, gigantic shrimp, floating in a pan of delicious drippings andÂ Matt Harris from Salt Communications, insisted that I pick it out of the pan and enjoy! I devoured it.
So Many Bones, So Little Time
After smoking and then meticulously pin boning a 10 pound salmon, Joseph Mikitish, Academy of Culinary Arts, was highly praised by all the judges for hisÂ Cherry And Ancho Smoked Salmon.
From Fish To Dish
Matt Storch, Match Restaurant, lauded the detail oriented young culinary wiz, âThe fish was perfectly cooked.â Everyone agreed.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
As his timer ticked down the minutes, Andrew Dubrule, SUNY Cobleskill, showed some signs of stress. His chefâs hat, drenched in sweat, as he carefully placed sprigs of rosemary, into hisÂ Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Pumpkin Risotto.
When one of the judges declared, âNever put anything on a plate that you canât eatâ, there was a collective “Ah Ha”Â moment! Â if he had only known,Â Andrew could have shaved 5-6 minutes off his time. Live and learn!
Smart Cookie! Jerri Custode Marinates With S. Pellegrino Aranciata
From my kitchen vantage point, I was able to see the passion, that went into the preparations of Jerri Custode’s, labor of love. A student at Culinary Arts Institute, Hudson County Community College,Â Jerri told the judges, “I marinated the pork in San Pellegrinoâs Aranciata”. There was a huge chuckle fromÂ crowd. She knew where her bread was being buttered, let’s just say.
Not only did she prepare gorgeous food, sheâs a smart cookie too!Â
And The Winner Is……
The judges choice, Almost Famous Chef Northeast Regional title, was Linnea Shumway, whose training atÂ Paul Smith’s CollegenoreplaceÂ is finally paying off.Â Her simple, yet elegant, Chicken with Mirepoix and Mushrooms was the recipe for success, on this magical night. Linnea isÂ headed to Napa, California, for the finals, and we wish her the best of luck!
I Could Have Been A Contender
I am truly in awe of the remarkable focus, poise, and maturity, each of these talented chefs-in-training, bring to the table. If I could only go back in time, I would attend a Culinary School, and perhaps, I could become the next âAlmost Famous Chef.â
For now, Iâll start with a knife skills class for beginners. There’s a great one taught by Chef Russell Moss, at 92Y Tribeca and I’m already signed up!