Last week was a bit crazy for me—I spent the first few days running around the StarChefs.com 7th Annual International Chefs Congress—and the last few recuperating. (I’m still trying to get over a nasty cold!) For those of you who don’t know about ICC, it’s a three-day, industry-only event that includes chef demos, competitions, food carts, and more.
I started working for StarChefs.com last year just as the ICC week was getting started, and it was a complete boot camp into the buzz of working for the company. This year was even better—the Congress is a ton of fun to attend, but being a part of putting it together is pretty special. Seeing hundreds of chefs learning, discussing, eating, drinking, and getting to know one another is such a pay off. And getting to learn about chocolate from Francisco Migoya and hear Jordan Khan and Michael Laiskonis discuss the route to becoming pastry chefs was pretty incredible.
My favorite part of ICC, and the part that took up almost all of my time, was the 3rd Annual International Pastry Competition. We had 20 wildly talented pastry chefs in the mix this year, and their creativity in each round showed it. For the pre-dessert round, the competitors presented everything from a Tom Yum-inspired panna cotta, complete with fried chicken skin, to a slew of beautiful concord grape desserts. In the plated dessert round, many choose to add depth of flavor to the required hazelnut paste with savory elements like carrot purèe and parmesan cheese.
The final round was already tough: each finalist had to create two identical layered cakes, bon bons, and a showpiece, and to top it off, they were also asked to make a dessert cocktail at the last minute. As a former pastry chef, it was so much fun, inspiring, and a little nerve racking to watch these chefs create their elements, plate desserts, and work under such pressure. In the end, Pastry Chef Salvatore Martone really wowed the judges with his sugar skills, taking first place and the grand prize of $5,000, courtesy of PreGel America. (That’s his stunning pre-dessert above.)
You can catch-up with everything ICC on StarChefs.com, and can even watch many of the events, including the pastry competition, online. And of course, we never stop. Tomorrow I’m headed to San Francisco to start meeting and tasting with chefs for our 2013 Rising Star awards. Life is pretty good around here!