Welcome to the CIA - the Culinary Institute of America. This beautiful school in St. Helena in Napa Valley faces the lovely Charles Krug Vineyards, owned by Peter Mondavi, brother of the more famous Robert Mondavi.
You're brought in to survey the ingredients that you will have at your disposal. A Latin Pantry, an Asian pantry, a Mediterranean Pantry, and a basic pantry. You have ten minutes to determine your entire dish. At that point, you must tell the judges what you will be making. If you veer from that later on, points will be deducted.
The mystery ingredients??
Chicken, Egg, and Mushrooms.
And the race is on. You have exactly two hours to complete your dish. When the clock strikes 2 hours, you have a window of five minutes within which you must present your dish to the judges.
Judges sit around this table as you explain your dish to them.
Fabio Viviani is the host for the live streaming webcast.
Media members (including yours truly!) look on. What pressure! And what excitement at the same time!
All the chefs I talked to said this was by far the most nerve-wracking part of the competition. You have no idea what to expect. You have to be inventive, spontaneous, and creative under quick pressure. Furthermore, these chefs must execute these dishes with unfamiliar sous chefs from the Culinary Institute of America helping them out.
Several of the chefs said they were really surprised that the surprise ingredient was chicken. In past years it's often been fish, so many of them practiced with fish. Another chef mentioned that chicken is hard because you can do so much with chicken (and egg for that matter) that's it's hard to focus on a dish in 10 minutes.
But man, did these guys execute! Despite all the challenges, I have to say I was super impressed with their creations. Everyone managed to finish their dishes on time. Check out the dishes!
Peter Clark from the New England Culinary Institute made a mushroom jalapeno spaetzle out of the eggs, and pan seared the scalloped chicken on top, calling his dish Seared Chicken "Scallops."
Johnathan Lynch from Nicholls State University in Louisiana. I missed his presentation, so I don't know the actual name of the dish, but you can enjoy the photo.
Robert Crawford from University of Nevada, Las Vegas told me that when he saw the edamame in the Asian Pantry he knew he wanted to do an edamame puree. Robert paired that with a rolled stuffed chicken breast over farro, with a colorful assortment of vegetables.
Amanda Digges from the Lincoln Culinary Institute in Connecticut made chicken Francaise with mushroom ragu, potato parsnip puree, and sauteed swiss chard.
Apilada Sani from the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of California, Los Angeles. I also missed her presentation, but I managed to snap a photo.
Dan Luckey from The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College had the tough job of being first, which meant he started cooking at 9AM. He made pan seared organic chicken breast with chicken mousse, satueed chickpeas and mushrooms, potato and parsnip risotto with reduction sauce.
Laura Torresin from ALMA (in Italy) made Italian risotto with chicken stock, garnished with vegetables individually prepared and "mimosa" eggs.
Justine de Valicourt from Institut de tourism et d'hotellerie du Quebec made chicken breast stuffed with mushrooms with warm emulsion in the way of Bearnaise
Luis Young from Johnson and Wales University in Miami made a rolled chicken breast with a potato pancake of sorts topped with an egg yolk.
Brian Schreiber from Kendall College in Chicago made a salad topped with warm mushrooms, seared chicken breast, and a poached egg covered in phyllo dough and then deep fried. One judge commented to Brian that this was the first egg dish that actually had a runny yolk (a good thing!).
After the craziness of the event, the chefs just stood around and chilled while the judges summoned them one by one for individual questioning.
It would not be until the next day that we would all find out the winner, but I'll spare you the suspense!
Congratulations Brian Schreiber! The judges loved that runny yolk, among other aspects of his dish.
Other posts from the Napa Valley Series
Signature Dish Competition
Del Dotto Caves / Winery
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