I’ve been invited to participate in the International Culinary Olympics (http://www.culinary-olympics.com) as part of a 5-man team called the 2008 Midwest Culinary Institute Olympic Team (http://www.culinarymasters.org). We are one of 8-12 regional teams from the United States attending the world-wide competition. We’re traveling to Erfurt,…
Team Manager Richard F. Potter, CEC, PCEC, CCA, AAC Executive Chef / Owner at Stringtown Bar & Grill, Florence, KY Competitors Alan J. Neace Sr., CEC, AAC Culinary Instructor at Midwest Culinary Institute, Cincinnati, OH Greg M. Skibinski, CEC Executive Chef at Western Hills…
Everything is doneâ€¦ We had a final fund raiser last night at Midwest Culinary Institute with â€œaction stationsâ€ dotted around the Summit Dining Room. (The dish I prepared was a fork-tender tornedeau of beef on a crouton with a rich mushroom demi-glace and topped with crab meat.) The equipment has been collected, packed, shipped, and received in Germany. The foodstuff has been prepared, packed, and brought to the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport. The official team coats have been pressed and starched, carefully packed away to minimize wrinkling. It is inevitable that we will need to press them once we arrive â€“ a task for Brian and me to solve when we land. Our bags are packed and weâ€™re all set, or weâ€™ve forgotten things (like Brian nearly did with his passport â€“ a last-minute dash to his house solved that problem (thankfully he lives very close)).
Finally, after more than 12 months of planning and untold hours of work, itâ€™s time to go compete. It is hard to believe that, after so much work, the time is finally here.
The team â€“ all five of us â€“ met at Stringtown Grill in Florence Kentucky (the restaurant owned and operated by Rick Potter, team manager) for a last minute meeting, meal, and finalization of packing. A few of the spouses were there to see us off; other spouses were managing the responsibilities of one partner being away for 10 days. From there, we made the short drive over to the airport and began the process of getting through check-in and security. With the amount of electronics (cameras, computers, chargers, CPAP machine, batteries, converters and inverters, and more) that weâ€™re taking with us, we expected security to be more time-consuming than it was. Still, Brian, with his slew of equipment, had his bag run through the X-Ray machine three times before it was hand-searched and cleared.
We made it to the gate in plenty of time for a last-minute team meeting before boarding the plane. As I write this, weâ€™re settled in on the flight, anticipating a meal, then itâ€™s lights-out for me. The miles (or kilometers, if you prefer) are stretched below us, still more ahead of us than behind. I need to get some rest since a large part of my role tomorrow is ground transportation. I need to be on point and rested.
Weâ€™re all excited about the competition, and have reviewed our to-do lists over and over. Weâ€™re ready to represent the Midwest Culinary Institute.
Please stay tuned to this blog as we will be updating as often as possible during our trip â€“ at least once a day and hopefully more frequently than that.
Today, Brian and I set out to the convention center where the events of the International Culinary Olympics are being held, in Erfurt, which is about 30 minutes away from our preparation room in Gotha. Using the GPS (thank goodness for the GPS!), we were able to make the trip easily.
The convention center at Erfurt was packed â€“ literally full to the brim â€“ with culinary-related presentations, booths, chefs, and the foodie public. The International Culinary Olympics is the largest event of its kind in the world. Despite being weary, it was invigorating to be among so many food professionals! Seeing the work of other competitors was enlightening and awe-inspiring. Iâ€™ve added a bunch of photos of their work to the gallery (note: photos of our entries are not up yet, and captions for everything are coming soon) for your review.
We wandered, mouths agape at the spectacle, through three giant halls full of vendors verifying the location of our table and looking for a few elusive pieces to complete our presentation â€“ a ladle & a couple specific cookie-cutters. We found the cutters we were missing and were able to negotiate with the vendor, who agreed to let us pay him the few Euros that we were short when we return tomorrow. Brian and I also took a few minutes to admire the work of the competitors who had presented their platters that day before jumping in the van and heading back to the preparation room.
When we got back to the hotel, it was time to get Chef Neaceâ€™s presentation together, so while Brian worked on menus and various display elements, I worked with the chefs in the kitchen while they sliced items, dipped them into aspic, and prepared the layout of the platters and plates. This process took several hours as each individual item that appears on the plate or platter is meticulously placed with tweezers.
We worked through the night and left the hotel around 5:00am to drive to Erfurt. I was very nervous driving because the meticulously-plated items were resting on the floor of the van, so it was imperative to drive very smoothly. Happily, we made it to the convention center without incident and got our materials set up with time to spare. Everyone was extremely relieved to have this, the first day of our competition, safely delivered to the convention center.
Then, it was all over except for the waiting. We drove back to Gotha for a few hours of sleep (it is disorienting to sleep from 8am until 2pm!). At 3:00pm, Alan and I drove back to Erfurt to attend the awards ceremony and tear down our presentation.
Chef Alan Neace, Sr. won a bronze medal in the International Culinary Olympics! Congratulations, Chef Neace! Chef Neace says, â€œEverything Iâ€™ve learned since I started competing in 1991 â€“ and everything Iâ€™ve learned by competing in 2008 at the International Culinary Olympics â€“ comes back…