We Are Chefs – The Official Blog of the American Culinary Federation
We Are Chefs is American Culinary Federation's blog focusing on issues affecting chefs, student culinarians and food from an industry perspective. Blog topics will focus on issues affecting chefs, students and food from an industry perspective as well as in-depth features on food and culture.
We’re counting down the weeks until ACF National Convention: Orlando with an in-depth introduction to some of our great speakers. Visit acfchefs.org/convention to see the full schedule.
At ACF National Convention: Orlando, chef, author and sustainable seafood expert Barton Seaver will take a handful of attendees on an excursion to Beaver Street Fisheries’ seafood processing facilities in Jacksonville, Florida to discover first-hand innovations in sustainable seafood. Conversation will touch on frozen seafood technology, right-size portioning, diversity of seafood species, and reducing waste.
Join in a conversation regarding opportunities for chefs to drive sustainability through everyday kitchen practices, including frozen seafood and behavioral sustainability. During the bus ride from Orlando, Barton will lead discussion inviting chefs to share their challenges and to develop solutions through peer-to-peer conversation.
Additional registration is required and seats are limited. Call us at (800) 624-9458 to speak with an events team member now about registering for ACF National Convention 2019 or to add this tour to your current registration. Onsite registration will also be available.
Hang with Barton Seaver during ACF National Convention: Orlando - YouTube
Barton Seaver is one of the world’s leading sustainable seafood experts and educators. Before leaving the restaurant industry to pursue his interests in sustainable food systems, he was an award-winning chef leading top seafood restaurants in Washington, DC. After traveling the world with the National Geographic Society, he translated his experiences into his leadership in the area of sustainable seafood innovations.
As a member of the United States Culinary Ambassador Corp, Barton facilitates international conversations on sustainability and the role of food in resource management and public health. As the Director of the Sustainable Seafood and Health Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health, Barton led initiatives to inform consumers and institutions about how our choices for diet and menus can promote healthier people, resilient ecosystems, more secure food supplies, and thriving communities. He also served as a Senior Advisor in Sustainable Seafood Innovations at the University of New England and as a Sustainability Fellow at the New England Aquarium.
An internationally recognized speaker, Barton has delivered lectures, seminars, and demos to a multitude of audiences. He has written seven seafood-centric books, including For Cod and Country, Two If By Sea, American Seafood and the forthcomingThe Joy of Seafood. Seaver has contributed to Coastal Living, The Coastal Table, Cooking Light, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Fine Cooking, Fortune, Martha Stewart’s Whole Living, The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Saveur, the Washington Post, among many others. He has appeared on 60 Minutes, CNN, NPR, 20/20 and the TED stage. Seaver hosted In Search of Food on the Ovation Network and Eat: The History of Food on National Geographic TV.
He is also the founder of Coastal Culinary Academy, a multi-platform initiative that seeks to increase seafood consumption through seafood-specific culinary education for all levels of cooks.
Barton resides in coastal Maine, a stone’s throw away from a working waterfront, with his wife, son and their flock of heritage chickens.
Click here to see all of our coverage on ACF National Convention: Orlando.
We’re counting down the weeks until ACF National Convention: Orlando with an in-depth introduction to each of our award candidates. Next up: the chefs competing for Chef of the Year! Visit acfchefs.org/convention to see the full schedule.
Not registered yet? Call us at (904) 484-0506 to speak with an events team member now. Onsite registration will also be available.
Growing up in Santa Cruz, CA — a city defined by its serene beaches, lush redwoods, and close proximity to one of the richest agricultural areas in California — Reilly Meehan, CEC always knew he had a place in the world of food. At an early age, he became enamored with cooking and found himself working summers in the kitchen of his father’s brewery, where long days and busy dinners became the norm. When he wasn’t picking up shifts at the pub, he was down the street picking blackberries in neighbors’ yards, or learning to make mole and fresh tortillas from his beloved family friends next door.
Despite his enrollment at one of the most highly acclaimed high schools for higher education placement, Meehan chose to pursue a career in the culinary arts and forgo the path that was set before him. In 2008, Meehan deferred his admission to a four-year university and instead competed in a scholarship competition, winning second place and a large scholarship to attend The Professional Culinary Institute in Campbell, CA. It was there that he met his mentor and good friend Randy Torres, who opened Meehan’s eyes to the world of culinary competition. With the guidance of Torres, Meehan became the first-ever American — and youngest person ever — to win the Chaine Des Rotisseurs Young Chefs Competition in Istanbul, Turkey in 2011, and continued to train for the 2012 Culinary Olympics with Team USA.
After achieving a gold medal in the hot food category and a silver in the cold food category at the 2012 IKA, Meehan moved to San Francisco, CA, where he quickly worked his way up the ranks at the Ritz-Carlton’s fine dining restaurant. On his days off, Meehan would practice for any competition he could find, and placed second in the 2014 Hans Bueschkens Young Chefs Challenge in Stavanger, Norway.
Upon returning from Norway, Meehan left the Ritz-Carlton to open up what came to be a successful bespoke doughnut pop-up in San Francisco. Eventually, he realized he missed the rush of a large kitchen and joined the culinary team at The Bohemian Club, working closely with Robert Mancuso, CMC, as a sous chef for nearly a year before being appointed to the role of Executive Sous Chef.
Meehan currently works at the Bohemian Club where he works closely with Chef Mancuso to provide exquisite service to the members of the club while mentoring young cooks and training for the CMC exam, which he hopes to attain in the near future.
Central: Scott Scheible, CEC
Scott Scheible took his position as Executive Chef of the Bogey Club in Clayton, Missouri in 2009 and enjoys the daily challenges of meeting and exceeding the members’ expectations.
Scheible never settles and is constantly aiming for perfection of his craft. He finds it important to give back to his staff with both knowledge and training, encouraging them to also strive for excellence with his exceptionally high standards.
Scheible also enjoys lending a hand to assist in the growth of young chefs within the profession. He helped to coach the St. Louis Student Culinary Hot Food Team to win the ACF National Championship in 2017. Scheible acknowledges that in helping he has received more than he has given. “Coaching the Hot Food Team has helped me grow so much as a Chef from raising my knowledge of food to learning the importance of Team Work. We constantly are in the pursuit of excellence and work extremely hard to be better cooks and chefs,” he says. Scheible has continued to give back by accepting the team manager position for both the St. Louis Student Culinary Team and the Knowledge Bowl Team for the St. Louis Chapter of ACF Chefs de Cuisine Association for 2018.
Admittedly, Scheible enjoys competition and has accumulated many medals over his career. He has been awarded Gold Medals in Mystery Basket Competitions, single man ACF Sanctioned Competitions and two man ACF Sanctioned Competitions. In 2005 competed on the St. Louis Student Hot Food Team and was named Team Captain.
Scheible began his culinary career at a young age as a line cook at The American Bounty Restaurant in Washington, Missouri. From there he went to work at Boone Valley Golf Club where he worked with James Beard Award-winning Chef Brian Menzel. After two years at Boone Valley Golf Club, Scheible took a job at University Club working under Chef Paul Kampff, then following him to St. Albans Country Club, a recognized Platinum Club of America. From there he went on to St. Louis Country Club where he worked as an Executive Sous Chef for Kampff.
Scheible has volunteered at many Chef de Cuisine events including Great Circle, various American Academy of Chefs dinners, Oktoberfest, Mardi Gras and other dinner events. He has been a member of the American Culinary Federation since 2004.
Chef Scott believes in hard work, determination, sharing what has been taught to him and always giving it your best.
Military: Chief Petty Officer Frida Karani
Chief Petty Officer Frida Karani was born and raised in Mombasa, Kenya, East Africa. Where she earned a Diploma in Culinary Arts from Kenya Utalii College in 2002 and went on to work for different five star hotels and restaurants in Kenya. She later joined the Hyatt Regency Dubai, U.A.E. as saucier from 2004-2006.
Karani moved to the United States as an exchange student working for Wyndham Orlando Resort. In 2009, she entered a culinary internship with JW Marriott Grand Lakes in Orlando, FL. Her stellar work with the JW Marriott Grand Lakes turned into a full-time position as saucier in 2009; all while attending culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando, FL, where she graduated summa cum laude. Karani is currently pursuing a double major in Tourism Management and Human Resource Management from Strayer University.
Karani enlisted in the U.S. Navy in January of 2010 and completed recruit training in April of 2010 at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois. Her follow-on training was conducted at Culinary Specialist “A” School in Great Lakes, Illinois, from which she graduated with the Accelerated Advancement Program Award for exceptional performance.
Soon after she reported to her first command, the USS Forrest Sherman, DDG98, home ported in Norfolk, VA. In June 2010 she completed two three-month deployments in support for Exercise Joint Warrior and a nine-month deployment in support for Operation Active Endeavor and was advanced to Second Class Petty Officer.
Ashore, Karani transferred to the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is currently the Enlisted Aide to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While stationed on the Joint Staff, Karani was named Enlisted Aide of the year, 2016 and 2017, and Armed Forces Chef of the Year, winning the title after competing at the 41st Annual Culinary Training Competition at Fort Lee, VA in 2016. She also was the Joint Staff Sailor of the year 2016.
Karani is also a winner of the Food Network TV show “Chopped,” where she proudly represented the Armed Forces.
Her personal awards include: Joint Service Commendation Medal (two awards), Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (four awards) Joint Meritorious Unit award, Navy “E” Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal (two awards), National Defense Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Karani is authorized to wear the Joint Chiefs of Staff badge.
Northeast: Frank Costantino, Ed.D, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC
Frank C. Costantino, Ed.D., CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC, is the Dean for the Culinary Institute of New York at Monroe College and founding Executive Chef for the critically acclaimed “Dining Lab” at Monroe College.
Prior to taking this position, he was the executive chef/owner of Harvest at Greenwood Lake, a fine dining restaurant in Orange County, NY. He sold the restaurant to return to culinary education, which he considers his calling.
He began his training at New York City College of Technology, earning both AAS and BT degrees from the hospitality management department. He earned his MS in hospitality management from Rochester Institute of Technology an Ed.S. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Sarasota, and finally, his doctorate in Teaching and Learning from Argosy University.
After working several years in the industry at restaurants including La Caravelle, Windows on the World and Quatorze, where Costantino earned two stars from the New York Times as executive chef of the restaurant, he completed 14 years of service as associate professor and Director of Culinary Education at New York City College of Technology. From there, he moved on to The Art Institute of New York City as a senior lead instructor, where he spent three years just prior to leaving to open Harvest.
Costantino coached the Art Institute’s junior hot food team to the 2006 New York State Junior Hot Food Championship. He currently serves as coach to the Monroe College team, whose students have won over 700 ACF medals in the eight years he coached at The Culinary Institute of New York at Monroe College.
Costantino is certified by the American Culinary Federation as a culinary educator (CCE), executive chef (CEC), culinary administrator (CCA) and an approved ACF judge. He was the ACF Big Apple Chapter Chef of the year in 2004 and Culinary Educator of the year in 2006. He was named the ACF Long Island Chapter Chef of the Year for 2014.
After watching Chef Steve Jilleba win in 2001, Costantino vowed to do the same, and won the ACF National Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2002. He was the captain of the New York Culinary Olympic Team and won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics in Erfurt, Germany. He won a WACS gold medal en route to the international hot food championship in Massa, Italy in 2005, and a WACS cold food gold in the same competition the following year. Costantino has won over 60 ACF medals in competition, including 18 gold medals.
Costantino is a fellow of the American Academy of Chefs. He lives in Warwick, New York, where I own a small farm, raising heirloom and specialty fruits and vegetables grown organically and bio-dynamically, as well as a flock of egg-laying hens, with help from his wife and three sons. Our farming business was originally started to support our farm to table restaurant Harvest but now supplies the Dining Lab restaurant as well as their own table.
In addition, Costantino is a musician, a certified master gardener and holds a certificate in Consumer Horticulture from Rutger’s University specializing in herbs in the perennial garden and vegetable farming.
Southeast: Charles Figueroa, CEC
Originally from Port Chester, NY, Charlie Figueroa, CEC started cooking at the Westchester Country Club at age 16 for Edward G Leonard, CMC, and decided to pursue a career in the culinary industry.
Figueroa graduated from Johnson and Wales University Rhode Island in 2010. He then worked his way up at the Westchester Country Club to become a chef de cuisine. He would later go on to work for Richard Rosendale, CMC, at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV. In 2013, he relocated to Palm Desert, CA to work at the Vintage Club where he ran the Palm Court Restaurant and helped cultivate team members of Culinary Youth Team USA. He then turned his attention to going back to the east coast. Figueroa landed at Farmington Country Club working for Michael Matarazzo, CEC where he was promoted to executive sous chef in 2014.
Figueroa is a strong advocate of team building, training, and employee retention. Classically trained in French Cuisine he believes in modern techniques and gathering inspiration from around the world. Chef Figueroa believes in utilizing the best available ingredients to create dishes that are always new and innovative.
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APRICOT is a drupe, or stone fruit, that belongs to the rosaceae family. There are about a dozen varieties of apricots widely sold throughout the United States. All varieties are similar in taste, but differ somewhat in size and color. Color can range from yellow to deep orange.
Apricots are in season from May through July. They are quite delicate and may be harvested before they are ripe to prevent damage during shipping. Ripe apricots are initially sweet with a slightly tart finish and a juicy, tender mouthfeel.
The origins of apricot is highly disputed. They are native to parts of Asia. Trade routes, exploration and time would spread the fruit from Asia into Europe and eventually the New World. Most New World apricots are of European origins. Central Asian apricots are still relatively new to North American growers as they do not have the visual appeal of plumper European varieties. Yet, they are often considered the more delicious in fruit flavor and texture.
Apricot trees are disease resistant and do not respond well to fertilizers. Fertilizers encourage weak growth and make trees more susceptible to disease and insects. The trees love full sun, hot dry summers and sheltered cool to cold but frost-free winters. Fruits will crack under humid, wet conditions.
Due to their health benefits, apricots are considered a superfood. They are low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals. Apricots do not contain saturated fat, sodium, or cholesterol. Apricots are a great source of vitamin A, which aids in improving eye health.
Healthy Ingredient Contribution
Values from NutritionData.com based on apricots, raw, halves, one cup (155 grams)
Vitamin A: Apricot provides 60 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin A, which is essential for healthy eyes, bones and teeth. The antioxidant properties of vitamin A combat free radicals that can damage the skin.
Vitamin C: One serving of apricot contains 26 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin that functions as an antioxidant. Vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infection and promotes a healthy immune system.
Dietary fiber: One serving of apricot supplies 12 percent of the daily recommended value of dietary fiber. Soluble fibers help control weight by making the stomach feel full, and insoluble fibers add bulk to the diet and help prevent constipation.
Potassium: Apricots contain 11 percent of the daily recommended value of potassium. This mineral is important for electrolyte balance, which in turn affects heart rhythm, fluid balance and nerve function.
Vitamin E: (Alpha Tocopherol) Seven percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin E can be found in one serving of apricots. This fat-soluble vitamin strengthens the immune system widens blood vessels, which helps reduce the risk of blood clots.
Types and Varieties
While there are many varieties of apricots, Blenheim, Perfection, Katy, Wenatchee Moorpark, and Tilton are among the better known.
Blenheim: Medium to large apricot with thick yellow-orange flesh, very juicy fruit with sweet, sprightly, and aromatic flavor. This is the classic California apricot. Eat out of hand or use for canning. Early to midseason harvest.
Katy: Large apricot with red-blushed skin and deep yellow flesh; freestone flesh is firm mild and sweet. Early harvest.
Perfection (Goldbeck): Fruit is large, oval to oblong, light yellow– orange skin with a pebbly appearance; yellow to yellow-orange flesh. Early harvest.
Tilton: Large to very large apricot with orange skin yellow-orange flesh; fair flavor. Use fresh. Midseason harvest.
Wenatchee Moorpark: Large to oval apricot with orange-yellow flesh and skin. Strong flavor. Midseason harvest.
Selecting and Storing
• To select ripe apricots, look for fruit with a rich, orange color (not pale yellow or green) and are a little soft to the touch.
• Refrigerating apricots will dramatically impair their ripening process. Leave them out at room temperature until they are ripe, then refrigerate them.
• Some varieties are so delicate that they cannot be shipped. This delicate nature causes most apricots to be processed. Apricots are often cooked, canned, or dried before sold.
• Like all stone fruit, they are an excellent filling for pies and tarts.
• Dried apricots make a great snack or garnish for salads
• Apricots flavor jam, marmalade, syrup, and jelly.
• There is an Egyptian drink known as amar al-din. This drink is made from apricots. First, the apricots are dried. Then, a sweetener is added to the dried fruits and then the drink is made out of it.
• California produces about 95% of apricots in the United States.
• In Latin, the apricot is called praecocquum, which means “early-ripening peach.”
• In the US, National Apricot Day is observed on January 9 every year.
• Astronauts ate apricots on the Apollo Moon mission.
Each week until ACF National Convention: Orlando, we’ll profile one of the inspiring speakers and presenters who will be there. Visit acfchefs.org/convention to see the full schedule.
At ACF National Convention: Orlando on August 7, Farmer Lee Jones will be a part of a panel titled “Earth to Table: Defining the Next Frontier of Local Cuisine,” as well as speaking on “Taking ‘Plant Forward’ a Step Further” in conjunction with Chef Jamie Simpson later that day. They will explore how chefs and farmers can work together as ambassadors of the plant forward trend that advocates more vegetables on the plate. In addition, they will cover how chefs can further this message by running a “no-waste” kitchen using every part of the vegetable as an integral aspect of the Plant Forward mindset.
Farmer Lee Jones
Farmer Lee Jones always wears his trademark overalls and red bowtie as a symbol of his commitment to sustainable agricultural practices. Ever since the early days of The Chef’s Garden’s creation over 30 years ago, he has remained tirelessly committed to two things. One, ensuring that the family’s three hundred acre farm remains one of the most innovative and pioneering in the world. And two, to fostering a nuanced conversation with the chefs in our industry who look to the farm to grow vegetables that are as aesthetically pleasing on the plate as they are flavorful to the palate.
Farmer Lee Jones also works alongside his dad and brother on the farm, inspiring The Chef’s Garden team to perpetually discover innovative ways to become more sustainable while at the same time, producing the highest quality ingredients possible. He was honored to receive the James Beard Foundation’s award for Who’s Who in Food & Beverage, making him one of the first farmers to receive it. He serves on the boards for Chef Magazine, Chef Concept and Modern Farmer.
He appeared in an episode of the Food Network’s “Food Network Star” as well as “Restaurant: Impossible” along with First Lady Michelle Obama. He is proud to have been named one of The Daily Meal’s “60 Coolest People in Food” in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and recently enjoyed spending time on the farm with television personality Andrew Zimmern for his “Bizarre Foods” program.
The one thing he can’t do is reveal what his favorite vegetable is because that would be like having to name your favorite child.
Chef Jamie Simpson is the Executive Chef Liaison at The Culinary Vegetable Institute. Hailing from a small town in South Carolina, Simpson began his culinary career in a serendipitous fashion after leaving the music industry. His journey took him to one of Charleston’s most acclaimed restaurants, The Charleston Grill, which gave him opportunities to explore other globally recognized kitchens and work with countless talents.
Simpson is passionate about exploring different cultures, the connection between art and food, and the relationship between unconscious process and creativity. Producing beautifully dressed and garnished dishes that marry complex flavors with technical expertise, he uses luxurious ingredients as well as odd cuts and guts. His creative approach of taking raw product and turning it into something unique and inspiring piques the interests of others. Simpson’s reputation for the use of unusual ingredient combinations, tastes and textures has led him to direct one of the most prestigious kitchens in the country.
Click here to see all of our coverage on ACF National Convention: Orlando.
We’re counting down the weeks until ACF National Convention: Orlando with an in-depth introduction to each of our award candidates. Next up: our regional student chef champs! Visit acfchefs.org/convention to see the full schedule.
Military: LCPL Jonathan Sanchez
Lance Corporal (LCpl) Jonathan Sanchez enlisted into the United States Marine Corps in January 2018 through the delay entry program. In February 2018, he entered Recruit Training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.
Upon completion of recruit training in May 2018, Private First Class (PFC) Sanchez received orders to Marine Combat Training at Camp Gaiger, NC. After Marine Combat Training, PFC Sanchez received orders to Fort Lee Virginia for Military Occupational Specialty training as a Food Service Specialist. He completed that in October 2018, so PFC Sanchez was assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 372 Airfield Company, aboard Marine Air Ground Combat Center Camp Pendlenton, Ca.
In October 2018 PFC Sanchez was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal (LCpl). January 2018 LCpl Sanchez received Temporary Additional Duty (TAD) orders to Fort Lee, VA to participate as student member of the Marine Corp Culinary Team. May 2018 LCpl Sanchez received Navy and Marine Corp Medal Achievement. April 2018 LCpl Sanchez received TAD orders to 29 Palms, CA to support 373 in training. March 2018 LCpl Sanchez received TAD orders to Fort Lee, VA to train for ACF National competitions.
LCPL Sanchez’s personal decorations include: Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and Certificate of Commendation.
Central: Hitomi Tomobe
The following is an essay written by Chef Tomobe about participating in this competition.
My decision to become a cook was heavily influenced by my parents. Growing up, I was blessed with having both a home cook and a professional cook as parents. My mother grew up cooking traditional Japanese food at a young age, while my father became a sushi chef who also enjoys exploring different types of cooking at home.
Although I grew up enjoying the cooking of both parents, one was objectively better. My father’s cooking was always purposeful and well-constructed. When I get to see him cook at home, he is very well organized and works quickly. Watching a person cook shows a lot of what they are as a person. The things that they decide to put on a plate is a clear reflection of what intentions they decide to present to a person.
Watching him cook at home, I got to see a cook who always had purpose in each of his steps and was very thoughtful in how he put it together. These virtuous traits that were evident in him as a cook became traits that I also hoped to gain as he became my role model, both as a cook and as a person.
I accepted the nomination because I was greatly humbled by the fact that my teachers who have seen me both fail and achieve, chose me to represent our school. I was both terrified and excited about the chance to compete again. Competing in a solo competition was one thing, but to do so while representing your bosses, your classmates and teachers was a weight that I was not sure I was prepared to carry.
When I started practicing, I remember having zero confidence in myself. I started questioning why this was placed on myself and why I had accepted in the first place. But during the last couple of practices, I started to think about how much time and energy my coaches, who were both instructors and bosses, had invested in me. I couldn’t let down these Chefs who had given of themselves to nurture me to become a better cook. Even if I didn’t believe in myself, I believed in their skill in teaching and critiquing.
If there is anything I would like to present to a person through a plate, it would be thoughtfulness. To plate food that was made with care for their enjoyment like my father would. As I further my skills and expand my palate, I hope I become capable of making food that also sparks their interest in food.
Within the next three years, I will graduate Culinary Studies Institute of Oakland Community College with an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts, as well as a Certificate in Baking and Pastry Arts. I hope that by then, I will find the confidence to test myself further by working in places that constantly challenge me to get faster, more skillful and more knowledgeable. Although I currently work in a club, I also hope that I will make my way back into the restaurant side of cooking because I miss that flow and volume.
After graduating Oakland Community College, I am also considering attending The French Pastry School in Chicago, but I am not sure if I would choose to lean more towards the savory side of food by then.
Thank you for this opportunity to represent both my school and Chefs who have nurtured me to this point. I will work hard to represent my coaches and my chapter well.
Southeast: Devin Agosto
Chef Agosto is a member of the ACF Southwestern Virginia Chapter and will represent the Southeast at ACF nationals. His full biography was not available at press time.
West: Emma Delahunty
The following is a letter of recommendation written by Todd Leonard, CEC, in support of Chef Delahunty.
Emma has been an outstanding student and is in every aspect worthy and fitting for Student Chef of the year. Emma is professional, honest and very hard working. She loves to cook and be in the kitchen. She thrives off of stress and brigade pressure that the kitchen offers her.
Emma is always making things happen, going the extra mile and doing extra things above and beyond the call of duty. She acts as though each minute and moment of every situation of every day is her last. She eats, sleeps and dreams food!
Emma wants to give back; she volunteers and helps with special events whenever there is opportunity. She currently works as a line cook in our café, she wants to help change lives and make a better community and world.
It is with great honor I recommend Emma as the Student Chef of the year representing Utah for the Western regional competition as well National Finals. Emma is an example of our past and future industry with respect to tradition and classic to modern and innovation. Emma will be ready and will represent the ACF professionally and raise the Bar of student competition. I am not just blowing smoke. She is the real deal!
Northeast: Daniel Hess
The following is an essay written by Chef Hess about participating in this competition. The essay has been edited for length.
I choose the culinary profession because I enjoy nothing better than helping other people before helping myself. The culinary world is a fast moving industry that strives to make people enjoy what it is that chefs dedicate their entire lives perfecting.
Cooking is not for everybody, but that does not mean people should get discouraged if they cannot cook. What it means is student chefs like myself need to share our skills with other people, making them better cooks and us better mentors. Ever since I was little I always aspired to be just like Chef Emeril Lagasse. The way he cooked and his “BAM” personality made me want to do what he does someday. And someday I will be just like him, cooking for an audience, but just in a different aspect.
I followed my dreams of becoming just like Emeril and decided to go to culinary school after unfortunately not attending a vocational school during high school. What started as a rough freshman year turned into some of the best years of my life. I have been to Michelin star restaurants, met world famous chefs and most importantly made some of the most valuable connections with industry professionals. If it were not for my coach I would not be where I am today or who I am today.
I accepted the nomination because I have been working towards developing my skills in order to become a better chef and someday be nominated to compete. I have aided in the practices with past students who have competed for this award and feel I have what it takes to compete for this amazing honor. I take great pride in everything I do in life and I would love to represent my school in competing for the title of Student Chef of the Year. Being nominated shows me that my chefs have faith in me and know that I am capable of bringing home the title. They could have picked anyone who met the qualifications but instead they choose me.
My three-year plan is to graduate college and move into my own apartment all while working as the Banquet Chef at Westchester Hills Golf Club. During this time I can better my skills and finesse dishes that look amazing.
During my whole culinary school experience for the past three years one saying has stuck out to me. “Eating is a necessity, but cooking is an art.” It is one of my favorite quotes and reminds me everyday that what famous Chefs do takes lots of energy and practice and being named 2019 Student Chef of the Year will make me one step closer to reaching my dream.
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Chef Gerald Ford, CMC’s classic family-style fried chicken dinner
Several theories exist on the origins of fried chicken. A popular one is that it originated with the Scottish, who fried unseasoned chicken parts in fat as far back as the Middle Ages; another points to the West African traditions of frying seasoned, battered chicken in palm oil. Still others trace it to China or the Middle East. The fourth-century Roman cookbook Apicius has a recipe for deep-fried chicken called Pullum Frontonianum.
The earliest known written recipe for American-style fried chicken was published in a British cookbook in 1747 — Hannah Glasse’s “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy.” According to First We Feast’s “An Illustrated History of Fried Chicken in America” by Adrian Miller, “That recipe … called for floured pieces of chicken to be fried in hog’s lard. Glasse’s cookbook was wildly popular on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, so it’s no surprise that her recipe became a prized way to make fried chicken in many well-to-do American households.”
Whoever made it first, it’s undeniable that African-Americans perfected the dish in the American South. To the region, the West African slaves brought their seasonings, and the Scottish brought their frying method. What resulted is today one of the ultimate American comfort foods.
“When we’re talking about classical, I think there’s a lot of different ways you could go,” says Gerald Ford, CMC, executive chef of the Ford Plantation in Richmond Hill, Georgia and captain of ACF Culinary Team USA. “I started thinking of quintessential regional American dishes. Fried chicken is something we do on the regular here at the plantation. … It’s very homestyle, very classical. It touches people’s souls a little.”
To create this version, Ford marinated the chicken, breaded it with a seasoned flour and fried it in a cast-iron pan in lard he’d rendered from pig fat. On the side he served collard greens, pickled vegetables and Carolina rice grits (a crop that, in the 1920s, was grown on what are now the grounds of the Ford Plantation). You can’t get much more classical than that.
What was once Henry Ford’s winter home, now called the Main House, itself teeters on the edge between classical and modern. The grand home was built in the 1930s along the banks of the Ogeechee River in Greek revival style — with air conditioning and an elevator.
Today, much of the Main House’s décor remains classic, but sleek bathroom renovations and other choice updates lend an elegant, contemporary feel. When Chef Ford (no relation to the famous Ford who now lends his name to the property) came on board with the Plantation last August, he also pushed to modernize the tiny kitchen and the grounds. Currently, Ford and the Club’s gardeners are in the process of building a swath of raised beds to grow fresh ingredients right on property.
When considering a modern version of fried chicken, Ford thought about how chefs often try to recreate a childhood memory exactly, rather than exploring the possibilities of the flavors. “It’s a good candidate to be made modern,” Ford says. “We kinda miss that mark as chefs when we transition something that ties into a really great memory from Mom. It can lack that personality.”
To give the dish the personality it deserves while maintaining the “spirit” of the dish, Ford drew inspiration from his surroundings (as generations of Southern cooks have done before him). “It makes the most sense to me to use the closest available local ingredients. They travel less, they tend to be in season,” Ford says. “The South, in season, has some amazing produce and products. I wanted to highlight those things.”
He puréed the collard greens in a blender with some chlorophyll. After marinating the chicken, he treated it like a galantine and poached it in a combi oven, then fried it.
“I used the same process of breading and frying that I would have normally done,” he says. “I cut the vegetables a little bit smaller than I normally would. I consider the modern a little more refined — instead of larger pickled vegetables and bigger chunks that require the guest to use a fork and knife, I carved the veggies a little more.”
In each issue of the National Culinary Review, we tip our toques to ACF chefs and chapters who have recently won awards, accepted a new position, taken part in charity work or achieved another notable accomplishment. If you believe your name should be listed in the next issue of Salut, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Lorain County JVS Culinary Academy team, comprised of Megan Rataj, Culinary Arts; Zachary Pena, Restaurant Service; and Victoria Barnett, Commercial Baking, all won gold at the SkillsUSA Ohio Championships in April. This is the third straight year that students from Lorain County JVS have won all three events. They now advance to the national competition in Louisville, KY, June 24-28. The students are mentored by Timothy Michitsch, CEC, CCE, AAC, of the ACF Akron-Canton Area Cooks and Chefs Association; Maurina Driscoll, Hospitality Instructor; Alyssa Rose, chef instructor; and Chris Moore, pastry arts instructor.
On July 1, ACF Culinary Team USA member Tim Recher, CEC, will begin a new position at the Quail West Golf and Country Club in Naples, Florida as Director of Club House Operations. Recher will lead the team that oversees all things culinary, FOH and operations inside the Clubhouse.
Debe Honibah Brady, dining services chef at the University of Wyoming, won a silver medal in the Continental Region competition at the National Association of College and University Food Services Culinary Challenge in Spokane, WA in April. She will compete at the 2019 National Culinary Challenge on July 11 in Denver during the NACUFS National Conference.
In May, chef and educator Ted Polfelt, CEC, CCA, AAC, of the ACF Southwestern Virginia Chapter, was awarded the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation awarded the Donald G. Smith Endowed Teaching Chair, which honors an outstanding Virginia Western instructor who advances the understanding of business management principles in his or her coursework.
Vernon Hickman, CCC, CCE, of the ACF Idaho Chefs de Cuisine, was the subject of an article on ktvb.com, “Innovative Educator: West Ada chef gives culinary students an appetite for learning,” highlighting his commitment to his students.
Once a week, a chef from the ACF Gulf Coast Culinary Chef Association visits a local school to speak and give hands-on culinary demos focusing on college and career prep. On May 19, ACF Gulf Coast president Samuel Spencer (right) and member Kim McKeller (center), along with chef Ryan Rogers, received the Partnership Award from the Mobile County Public School system for this commitment to connection between industry and education.
Jill Tucker, CSC (center) member of ACF Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association and chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of Michigan, earned a Gold Medal with Distinction for a perfect score on her KC Signature Fish entry at the ACF Sanctioned Roland E. Schaeffer Culinary Classic. The fourth annual competition was held at the Culinary Institute of Michigan in Port Huron on April 27, 2019.
At the Worldchefs’ Global Chef Challenge Americas Regional Semi-Finals in Toronto, Canada on May 25-26, Utahna Warren (right, all pictured with ACF National President Stafford DeCambra, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC), a culinary student at Utah Valley University, and William Racin, CEPC (center, on right), pastry chef at Pittsburgh, PA’s Duquesne Club, assisted by Commis Kodi Mikiewicz, both won gold medals. Todd Leonard, CEC (left, in center), earned a silver medal. Both Warren and Racin’s wins automatically earned them slots at the Global Chefs Challenge in St. Petersburg, Russia.
ACF pays tribute to members we have lost in recent months.
Each week until ACF National Convention: Orlando, we’ll profile one of the inspiring speakers and presenters who will be there. Not registered yet? Visit acfchefs.org/convention to see the schedule, and call (904) 484-0506 with any questions about attending!
Michael Sohocki, chef-owner of Restaurant Gwendolyn and co-owner of Kimura and Il Forno, developed his commitment to sustainability and authenticity over a lifetime of experiences that stretches from the Texas Gulf Coast to Japan.
Star Chefs named Sohocki a Rising Star Sustainability Chef in 2012 and the following year, the James Beard Foundation selected him as a semifinalist for Best Chef-Southwest. In 2013, he and his partner Jenn Wade opened Kimura, an izakaya and ramen shop, which presents a Japanese experience previously unknown in San Antonio.
On August 7 at ACF National Convention: Orlando, Sohocki will speak on “A Search for Meaning.” His talk will center on how, for thousands of years, we have fiercely beaten back our limitations of region, weather, and competition for resources with the outside world. Cooking has become easier, more efficient and profitable as a result. We can now reach obscure ingredients our grandparents couldn’t have imagined with ease, in quantities, extremes and speeds never known. But in this race, we failed to realize those limitations gave us an identity we lost.
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We’re counting down the weeks until ACF National Convention: Orlando with an in-depth introduction to each of our award candidates. First up are our regional pastry chef champs!Not registered for Convention yet? Visit acfchefs.org/convention to see the schedule and secure your spot before prices rise on July 7.
Northeast: Nguyet Nguyen
After arriving in the U.S. in 1992, Nguyet Nguyen dedicated herself to learning English and assimilating into U.S. culture. An early attempt to fit in by bringing chicken nuggets to a school social quickly earned her the nickname “Nugget.” Rather than viewing this as a negative, Nguyen embraced her new nickname and later used the experience as the basis for an award-winning essay.
It didn’t take long for her persistence to pay off as Nguyen earned scholarships to both Johnson County Community College (JCCC) and the University of Kansas (KU). While at KU, Nguyen’s artistic talents led her to question her future as a premed major. After completing a Bachelor’s degree in Human Biology, Nguyen made the decision to exchange her lab coat for a chef’s jacket. She returned to JCCC and enrolled in their respected culinary program. The combination of the precision of science and the creative freedom of art made Nguyen fall in love with pastry, to which she committed herself wholeheartedly.
As Nguyen’s skills developed, so did her competitive spirit. She competed on JCCC’s culinary team first as the pastry chef and later as captain. Her competitive nature has resulted in several medals in various American Culinary Federation culinary competitions including the 2010 Central Region Pastry Chef of the Year.
Since graduating from JCCC, Nguyen has continued developing her skills through a variety of different pastry positions. She has worked at 40 Sardines Restaurant and the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City. In 2010 Nguyen accepted the position of Assistant Pastry Chef at Houston Country Club, where she worked alongside award winning pastry chef Jeffrey Guy for two years. As she continued working at several independent restaurants in Houston, Nguyen opened her own catering service called Nougat’s Desserts before spending a year and half at the Gasparilla Inn in Boca Grande, FL.
Nguyen is currently the executive pastry chef at the Philadelphia Country Club.
West: Kurt Lechner, CEPC
Lechner was born in the wine region in a small town called St. Leonhard of lower Austria in 1961. After high school he took on an apprenticeship, studying and learning the art of baking and pastry in the small Austrian town of Neunkirchen. There, he honed in on his love for the craft of baking and pastry.
Lechner finished my Journeyman degree as a Baker and Confectioner in 1980, then moved to Vienna, Austria to pursuit his profession. After two years, he went back to the Master school in Vienna to become a Master Pastry Chef (Konditormeister). In May 1984, Lechner finished the Master school and successfully passed the master pastry chef degree exam, and was awarded the title of Master Pastry Chef.
1985, he and his wife Karin moved to the United States where he further pursued my career as a Baker and Pastry Chef in Salt Lake City. After years in Salt Lake City, they then relocated to San Diego, California, where Lechner worked as the head baker and pastry chef for the catering department of the Hilton hotel. He moved on to become the pastry chef and manager in the bakeshop at San Diego State University for the next 12 years. In 2008, Lechner got the opportunity to teach at the Art Institute of California – San Diego, where he still teaches and spreads knowledge to his students.
Southeast: Melinda Wilkins, CEPC
Pastry Chef Melinda Wilkins has been a Baking and Pastry and Culinary Arts Instructor as Stratford University, Virginia Beach Campus since 2016. Wilkins is a 2003 graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. She has an Associate’s Degree in Baking and Pastry and a Bachelor’s Degree for Hospitality Management and has also earned her Certified Executive Pasty Chef title from the American Culinary Federation in 2014.
During her career, Wilkins has worked for many talented chefs, including as an Executive Pastry Chef for E-Brands in Las Vegas; opening David Burke’s “Modern Cuisine” restaurant and taking over Aqua Knox restaurant simultaneously.
Wilkins honed her skills when first moving to Las Vegas in 2004 and opening the Wynn Resort and working for five-star, five-diamond, one-Michelin Star Chef Alessandro Stratta. Wilkins moved to Virginia Beach in 2009 and served as the Executive Pastry Chef at Terrapin Restaurant from 2009-2011.
Her experience qualifies her to teach sections of artisan bread, cakes, custards and creams, specialty and wedding cakes, plated desserts, confections, chocolate arts, sugar arts and fundamentals of baking.
Central: Ryse Swanson
Ryse Swanson has been creating pastries at Walnut Creek Country Club in South Lyon, Michigan, since 2010. As pastry chef, she manages pastry production for the restaurant outlets, banquets and offsite special events. In addition, Swanson’s custom cakes, cookies, and pastries are in demand for all occasions.
In 2006, Swanson was working toward a master’s degree in architectural design, when the industry shift in building design moved from handmade models and drawings to 3D computer renderings. Hands-on appeals to Swanson, and at that point, she decided to pursue a culinary degree at Oakland Community College (OCC), where her passion for art and design were rejuvenated through pastry arts.
While attending OCC, Swanson found a new passion: carving. Anything that could be carved was fair game — ice, pumpkins, fruit, cake, etc. She competed in ice carving, where she won 11 silver and three bronze National Ice Carving Association (NICA) medals, and was also half of the first all-female ice carving team to win the NICA National Collegiate Ice Carving Championship title in 2012. Prior to Walnut Creek Country Club (WCCC), Swanson honed her kitchen skills, working in several restaurants in the Metro Detroit area.
Outside the WCCC kitchen, Swanson can be found at home with her 18-month-old daughter, Maisie, and husband Rob. She still carves whenever she gets the chance and takes considerable pride in her “biodegradable art.” Her newest adventures have taken her around the country, carving 1,100-pound pumpkins and 80-pound blocks of cheese.
Military: Samantha Poe
SSG Samantha Poe was born and raised in Houston, Texas. She graduated from Kennett High School in Kennett, Missouri in 2005. Poe attended college at Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky and graduated in 2007 with two Associates Degrees, one in Culinary Arts and one in Baking and Pastry Arts. Prior to joining the United States Army she held Pastry Chef positions at:
Seelbach Hotel, Louisville, KY
Limestone Restaurant, Louisville, KY
Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee, WI
She married Christopher Poe in 2011 and had a daughter, Margaret Ann, in August 2016.
On May 31, 2011, Poe enlisted in the United States Army as a Food Service Specialist. She has been stationed at the Army Executive Dining Facility at the Pentagon and Enlisted Aide to the Army Chief of Staff since September 2014.
Poe participated in the World Culinary Olympics 2012 in Germany as a pastry apprentice. She won Armed Forces Chef of the year in 2015, Army Enlisted Aide of the Year in 2016 and pastry Best in Show in 2018.
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