2010 International Chefs Congress Wrap-Up: Competitions Day Two

2010 International Chefs Congress Wrap-Up: Competitions Day Two


Somm Slam The First Annual Somm Slam
The Somm Slam continued for an exciting second day with four more competitors: Christopher Bates (Hotel Fauchere – Milford, PA), Alexis Kahn (FCI – New York), Brent Kroll (Oval Room – Washington, DC) and William Sherer (Aureole – Las Vegas). They proved once again that even with the same three dishes, four sommeliers will have four different approaches and the judges have different palates and tastes. Today’s chef, Adam Schop of Nuela, brought his Latin influences to the three dishes which proved to be an appropriate match for the wines, which were all provided by Wines of Spain. Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth MC’d for the second day in a row, finding out from competitors why they chose what wines and prodding the audience of judges for their favorite—and least favorite—pairings.

The first dish of New Zealand King Salmon Ceviche, Green Apple, and Horseradish was bright with lovely acidity. Brent Kroll, the youngest of the bunch, opted for a sparkling brut Cava that he thought would act as a palate cleanser for each bite of the fat, rich texture of the salmon. The pairing that won round one, however, was William Sherer’s choice of a sweet, perfumey Muscat that lifted the salmon and worked well with the onion and citrus. For round two, Schop put out one of a somm’s favorite proteins, pork belly, served with caramelized figs, aji panca, and fennel. While pork belly is usually easy to pair, the figs lent the dish a fruitiness and the fennel was a surprising twist. Most of the competitors went with a fruity red wine but Christopher Bates—the winner of this round—went with a sparkling Pinot Noir Cava. “I am a champion of the odd,” Bates said when explaining his decision for selecting this sparkling wine. The Somm Slam culminated with a rich, tender beef short rib with acidic tomatoes and green onions. All four sommeliers came up with daring, out-of-the-box pairings. But it was William Sherer’s Oloroso Sherry pairing that wowed that judges' palates. The wine brought out the caramelized flavors of the beef and coated the mouth for an unexpected but highly successful match. And with that William Sherer won day two of the Somm Slam and will go on to compete against day one winner Andrew Myers of CityZen for the Grand Prize tomorrow.

Round 2 Winner:
William Sherer
of Aureole - Las Vegas, NV


Pastry Competition The First Annual International Pastry Competition
presented by PreGel
The pressure was on this morning as yesterday’s ten winners went on to compete in day two of the First Annual International Pastry Competition. Eliminated competitors from the first round swung by to watch as the semi-finalists were presented with challenges to incorporate into their plated desserts: fig arabeschi by PreGel, a choice of three Wisconsin Cheeses (Cave Brothers Buttermilk Blue, Les Frères, or Cave Aged Cheddar), and cotton candy, using Koerner equipment and the Koerner Alphabet of Flavors. Said Carlos Sanchez of Parcel 104 in Santa Clara, CA, “This is great! It’s a hard job but we come here and we get re-charged.”

Chefs Andre Soltner and Alain Sailhac dropped in just as contestant Jiho Kim was plating, adding to the pressure but also stirring up big smiles among the crowd and the judges. Judge Jacques Torres jumped up to have his picture taken with the legendary French chefs. Judge Johnny Iuzzini lent a hand to photographers before tasting any of dishes, while Chef Elizabeth Falkner occasionally gave thumbs up to friends in the audience. MC Keegan Gerhard pointed out the disappearance of coulis, and its replacement by airs, foams, clouds, and fluid gels. Chef Kim’s dish, a Buttermilk Blue cheese baked mousse with chocolate crumble that came with a Port atomizer and instructions, featured a blueberry fluid gel. Kim later explained that at L’Espalier in Boston, guests are offered a black forest cake with an atomizer that spritzes cherry kirsch liqueur to moisten the cake as desired.

Another theme of the day had to do with the variety of textures and flavors available to chefs today, courtesy of all their modern toys. Contestant Yulanda Santos caused a stir with her spicy cotton candy paper, and Gerhard commented on the status of cotton candy seven or eight years ago, surmising it was “strictly for the zoo”. But thanks to modern products like Koerner, chefs have been able to master flavor applications, as in Maximo Carmona Rivera’s lemon verbena cotton candy or Ron Paprocki’s vanilla spun sugar. Of course, Gerhard noted, PreGel’s Magic Sugar definitely helps.

In the end, the judges agreed that the three best dishes of the day belonged to Ian Gresik of Drago Centro in Los Angeles, CA (Judge Chef Elizabeth Falkner’s favorite dessert of the day), Ron Paprocki of Gordon Ramsay at the London, and Chris Ford of Trummer’s on Main.

Round 2 Winners:
Ian Gresik of Drago Centro—Los Angeles, CA
Chocolate-Pistachio Terrine with Fig Espuma and Wisconsin Buttermilk Blue Cheese
Chris Ford of Trummer’s on Main— Clifton, VA
Fig Genoise, Wisconsin Les Freres Panna Cotta, Fig Sorbet, Muscovado Jelly Sheet, Fig Cloud, and Candied Pecans
Ron Paprocki of Gordon Ramsay at the London—New York, NY
Fig and Olive Oil Cake, Wisconsin Les Freres Mousse, Cognac Ice Cream, and Vanilla Cotton Candy

by Emily Bell, Francoise Villeneuve, Katherine Martinelli, and Jessica Dukes