Our second annual young chef competition drew a larger field than our initial contest, so the judges at Midwest Culinary Institute decided to change the nature of the event. They had the young chefs focus on a single course from the mystery basket and reduced the available time, but the competition still went for a full day. Creating only one dish raised the stakes to get everything right, but our challengers felt ready for the test. Thanks must go to judges Master Chef and MCI Instructor John Kinsella, Paul Parks, Dame Marilyn Harris, and MCI Chef-in-Residence John-Robert de Cavel for a long day’s effort to give proper consideration to all.
Guests came to observe the chefs that were last to be judged before proceeding to a reception at the Summit, MCI’s working restaurant. Wine was brought by all attendees to share so there was a great variety and made for an informal relaxed atmosphere. Whites included Pol Roger, Chappellet, Zind-Humbrecht, and Talbott, while reds ran the gamut from Papapietro Perry and Penner-Ash to Caymus, Robert Foley, and Pride. We took our seats as the students received recognition and the top three finalists were awarded medals of merit. Gold medal winner Andrew Mersmann is a part-time student at MCI while he has worked at several of Jean-Robert restaurants and is currently on staff at Honey, a locally owned business well known for quality fare.
After the formalities we were served a meal prepared by MCI students, including courses of seared skate wing, duck confit, and bread pudding flavored with Nutella, quince, and orange. A great feature to this year’s competition was having the young competitors join us for dinner. Most guests had one at the table with them and spirited discussions ensued while we enquired of their life experience and stories in kitchens. All agreed this addition should be repeated next year. We look forward to Young Chef Mersmann advancing to the regional competition in Minneapolis to combat other aspiring chefs in the Midwest.
J.T. Mayer, Midwest Chargé de Presse Provincial