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March 8, 2009
By Peter Caporilli,
Chargé de Presse Provincial Mid-Atlantic
Each generation shoulders no greater responsibility than to preserve those aspects of life and lifestyle we hold dear for our children and the future. So it was with a this sense of purpose and excitement that members of the Mid-Atlantic Region leadership gathered at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, MD on March 8 to preside over Les Jeunes Commis Rôtisseurs competition.
Six promising professionals, each sponsored by a local Bailliage, were invited to travel to François Dionot’s magnificent school for the culinary arts. The familiar “mystery market basket” method was employed to provide each chef with the same items, each of which had to be used in preparation of their courses, along with a common pantry or “par stock” of ingredients to use. Lots were drawn to determine start time and kitchen table position as the competition was staggered to allow for an orderly transition from the preparation area to the judging tables.
The competition was set up so that each chef, upon arrival, had thirty minutes to review the assembled mystery basket and prepare a written menu for three courses; an entrée first course, a main course second course, and a dessert third course. Upon completion of the menu, each competitor took up their place in the kitchen and went to work.
The market basket was carefully selected by Bailli Provincial Georges Muller, Vice Conseiller Culinaire and host, Francios Dionot, along with Vice Conseiller & Professionals des Etats-Unis Pierre Rausch and Conseiller Culinaire Provincial David Kniess. This year, the chefs had to create their dishes from a leg of lamb, two (2) rockfish, three (3) oysters, a pineapple, crème fraîche, fennel, and potatoes.
Each competitor had three and a half hours to complete their meal and serve all three courses to the judges within a thirty minute window. In addition to the assembled tasting judges, Paul Stearman, Chef de Cuisine Marcels, Shannon Overmiller, Chef de Cuisine Majestic Café, Henry Greenwald Vice Conseiller Gastronomique Washington DC, and Judith Mazza, Vice Chargée de Presse Washington DC, there was also a considerable amount of judging taking place in the kitchen as Conseiller Culinaire Stephen O’Donnell, Delaware Valley, was grading each competitor. Cleanliness, proper technique, application of fundamental procedure and creative utilization of the basket, pantry, and assistant staff were also judged and became part of the component score.
Each of the competitors were outstanding and a credit to their sponsor. The competitors were: Seth Brady, 25, sponsored by Bailli Paul Haar of Washington, DC; Frank Banes IV, 24, sponsored by Bailli Fritz Huntjens of Richmond, VA; Jason Byrne, 22, sponsored by Francois Dionot, Vice Conseiller Culinaire of Washington, DC; Denise Hall, 25, sponsored by Stephen O’Donnell Vice Conseiller Culinaire of Delaware Valley; David Ryba, 24, sponsored by Bailli Damian Buckley of Périphérique; and Elizabeth Clifford, 26, sponsored by Ellen Kirsh, Professionnel du Vin, Washington, DC.
The winner of the 2009 Mid-Atlantic Les Jeunes Commis Competition was Seth Brady of Vinoteca in Washington, DC. Mr. Brady prepared as his entrée, rockfish with oyster fondue and fennel, as his main course a roasted leg of lamb with Dijon jus, pommes puree and roasted tomato, and for dessert, braised pineapple with pound cake and sweet crème fraîche.
Some of the more interesting preparations included braised leg of lamb with sweet and sour fennel, olive oil poached potatoes and port lamb caisson. Also rockfish grilled with creamy risotto and crispy oysters and for dessert a caramelized pineapple tart with mixed berry salad and orange berry broth.
For those gathered and lucky enough to score a ticket to the very limited seating in Francois Dionot’s presentation kitchen, the professional staff at L’Academie de Cuisine and some of their students created a Chaîne award ceremony brunch.
As we entered one of the lecture halls, we were greeted with a staggering array of hors d’oevres including gougeres, duck pate, cheese straws and brandade croquettes along with a lively sparkling.
Moving into the presentation kitchen, chef-coat attired professionals and chefs-in-the-making presided over a sumptuous buffet which included a smoked salmon platter, seafood nestled in a puff pastry, veal blanquette, individual petite quiche and poached eggs on potato cake with red wine sauce.
Bailli Provincial Muller presented medallions to each competitor and the winner’s silver medallion to Seth Brady as those assembled felt renewed confidence that each had done their part to insure that the tradition of fine dining we treasure seems safe for another generation.