Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Last Saturday morning I participated in my first cooking competition ever and it was a total blast! As earlier posted, I had three recipes that I wrote and submitted that made me a finalist in the competition. My recipes included Bacon-wrapped Liver Skewers, Fava Bean Spread on Croustini and Poached Pears.

There were three different judges: The Executive Chef of my school, a Chef Instructor of my school and a school alumni. The two chefs who work at my school both have over 25 years of experience in this field and are key opinion leaders for me.

We had an hour and a half to prepare everything and get it plated and ready to eat. If you have never cooked under the clock, let me tell you, it is scary. I felt like I was on iron chef. 20 different chefs in the kitchen all running around trying to cook their food at the same time. What a rush!

Upon arriving that morning at the competition, I walked into the kitchen and the first thing I asked was, "Where's the broiler?" I was immediately told, "There is no broiler in this kitchen, you'll have to use the grill or carry your food into another kitchen to broil it." AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Next, I checked out the ingredients they had available for us. They were supposed to have all the ingredients needed for each of our recipes. The first thing I noted, they had DRY fava beans. If anyone has any experience cooking with beans, you might understand why I freaked out. Dry beans are meant to be soaked in water overnight before they are cooked for several hours so that they become soft enough to eat. How I was supposed to manage that in an hour and 30 minutes, I do not know. Luckily, I had checked things out the day before and I happened to know that there were fresh beans in the refrigerator in another class room. So I had someone go get them.

Next freak out...no pears. How do you make poached pears without pears? Someone made a run down to the store to get them and they arrived with 30 minutes left on the clock. BUT THEY WERE THE WRONG PEARS!!! So I made a gourmet poached pear dish with hard, green pears and you know what? ...they turned out great.

Making the fava bean spread was a riot, using an industry-grade food processor. We become so used to our cute little blender or Cuisine Art-type models. This thing was huge and had a weird lid that was hard to click on. But I managed and it turned out really nice.

The result....

We laid all of our dishes out across two long tables in another room and were told to clean up the kitchen while we were being judged. I washed about 400 dishes and was exhausted and sore and anxious to find out the results.

We were finally called in to hear what the judges had to say and they gave us some good advice about competition dishes and so on. It was specifically noted that they had to raise the bar on the judging due to the magnificence of the dishes created.

There were some amazing things there, too. Someone had made sushi with Spam in it that actually tasted good until someone told me it was Spam in it. There was fried chicken, curry shrimp with pilaf rice, poor boy sandwiches...and we got to taste them all. They were all-in-all very, very good and I had no idea how the judges had come to a decision.

Finally, an administrator came in bearing our certificates and started calling off names of those recognized for participation. I waited and waited to hear my name called and became more and more excited as it wasn't called, realizing they were going to save 3rd, 2nd and 1st place for last. The names were called and finally the last certificate of recognition was held up. The administrator said, "and finally....Jaime Tanno." Awwwwww.... oh, well. I think it was called in order from lowest score to highest, so I'm pretty sure that I ended up being 4th place.

The winners dish was a cute little sandwich and the most amazing dessert of some sort of caramelized egg custard. Nothing spectacular but his display was amazing. He had set up an entire picnic setting, including a little iPod and speak that played the sounds of birds chirping. I guess that won over the judges.

Second place was really, really good fried chicken and an interesting watermelon and feta salad that I didn't really enjoy much.

Third place was good but I'm not sure why. It was a pretty normal sort of chicken and pita with couscous.

Anyway....those are the results. Please join me next time for the pizza competition in the Fall!

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