The road to San Pellegrino

I clearly remember the night I found out I wanted to compete in the San Pellegrino competition.  I was watching the San Pellegrino Almost famous event through the live stream at home.  I didn’t know much about it other than that Brian from Kendall was competing.  I meticulously watched the awards ceremony in awe. The unbelievable celebrity panel, the venue and the experience every student there was having there.  I was envious.  I watched Brian win the mystery basket, and Luis humbly win the signature dish and overall win.  It was right then and there than I knew I wanted that.  I wanted to win the Pellegrino competition.  I wanted to go out there and win to prove to myself that I could.  I wanted to win every portion of the competition, take the whole thing in a landslide.  Not out of greed or arrogance, but because I want to be the best that I could be and that the only thing that would stop me was myself…and what the hell, why cant it be me who wins?  So that night I set that goal.  Locked it away in my mind and never forgot about it.  I was going to devote myself entirely to winning that competition from that day forward.

Before I get to far into this, I also must give a big thanks to the chefs/mentors who have really gone out of their way to help make all of this happen.  With out them I don’t know where I would be. Michel coatrieux, Ben Browning, Pierre Checci and Pierre Pollin.  Thank you.

Inspiration
So with every dish comes a process that gets you to where you want to go.  Though when creating a dish for competitions it is a bit different.  In restaurants you have a small window to develop an idea and the conceptualize it, as well as in some cases limited resources.  You have to struggle to create around the busy schedule already in the kitchen as well as staying in line with the style of the restaurant you are in.  You dont get the time to research and practice as much.  Though when it comes to being in culinary school, the world is yours.  Every year we know this competition is coming and we begin to prepare for it well in advance.  So around october is when we began working on the dish knowing that the regional competition doesn’t start until February.  So the process starts with an idea and one thing that I like to do for inspiration is to cruise around google typing in random words related to food that im currently thinking about.  After a while I happen to run across a picture of a dish that I later found out was a french laundry dish.

This was the picture which really started it off for me.  It caught my eye because it was a base of flavors that I loved that I would turn into my own.  The flavors I saw were “midwestern meat and potatoes”, a fatty tasty hollandaise sauce and a beautiful cut of mid rare lamb… om nom nom nom.

practice, practice. practice… then practice once more.
So after days and days full of long hours in the library and late nights looking through videos,blogs and articles I came up with something that I liked.

After a couple trials of playing around with some of the individual components this was the first run through of the dish.  The potato was a bit of a no brainer since it was just a matter of cooking it very slowly in flavored olive oil and then searing it on one side.  There were two main concerns with the dish.  The first being trying to figure out how to get a perfect circle of mousseline around the lamb loin and have it stay around the lamb without using meat glue.  Then there was the matter of trying to figure out what to do with the sauces.  In the picture above there are only two.  A light vinaigrette with the salad and a thin lamb glace.  I later decided to add in a third sauce after doing some research in escoffier about hollandaise sauces and then around the same time tasting chef Ryan’s foyot sauce from lunch dining room.  She served a grilled beef loin with the foyot sauce and after tasting it I thought it was so good that I had to figure out a way to incorporate it.

So sauce three (foyot) was born as well as a little bit of refinement from the other components.  As you can see the potato tuille was also born.  This is made by blending the scraps,  There was also then the idea to start having a focus on a specific region.  In terms of my experience of flavors and what I liked it was decided to go in a Mediterranean direction. 

So finally the dish was born and with a little luck and the hard part behind me, I won the regional competition that was soon to change my life.

More to come friends…

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