One of the extreme pleasures of being in the wine and food business is being invited to attend events such as young Chef’s competitons and young Sommeliers competitions. This past Saturday I was invited to attend Chef’s and a Sommelier’s regional competitions sponsored by the Chaine des Rotisseurs Pacific Northwest Chapters. This year’s competition was held at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.
Just like on Food Network’s Iron Chef, the seven contestants, who came from cooking programs from Seattle to Oakland, were given key ingredients – squab, sea bass, figs and dates in this case, to use in the timed competition. They each had to come up with a three course meal.
Judging was very intense. The professional chefs/professors from the Culinary Academy stayed in the kitchen while the contestants prepared their dishes, so that as part of the judging they could rank contestants based upon cutting or preparation technique, organization and use of time, sanitation, and other standards. The second judging criteria was presentation. And the third was of course judging of taste by a tasting panel.
The young sommeliers not only had to correctly identify varietals and regions, but also had to rate each wine by quality, and go through judging exercises on use of proper glassware, proper table settings, and other exercises.
At the end of the day, a finalist was selected to represent the region at a national competition in Chicago. The winner of the national competition will then go on to the International competition to be held this year in Istanbul, Turkey. Expenses for the winning contestants are paid by the Chaine and the winners also receive scholarships. But it is really true that each student is a “winner”, just being selected to go through such an exercise, a rigorous competition, makes winners out of each of the contestants. Our congratulations to all.