This weekend was one of the most stressful, and exciting, weekends of my life. It all started a few months ago, when we were told about the Wisconsin Restaurant Association cold plate competition being held at the Midwest Foodservice Expo. Many culinary students from local colleges and universities would come to compete in this competition, where "beautifully designed meals are judged solely on presentation. Individual competitors create superbly plated meals and beautifully designed veal or beef entrees. The aspic-glazed plates are judged on appearance, presentation and creativity."
No pressure, right? :D
I immediately started brainstorming ideas. I thought about doing a surf and turf roulade, and my idea seemed to be something that my Chef was interested in me producing. I will admit I kept going back and forth on starches and vegetables for the plate. What I settled upon the weekend we started building the plates was three tourne potatoes coated with parsley, haricot vert beans with red pearl onions and a flat tourne of zucchini. (Note: tourne refers to the way the vegetables are cut, specifically shaped into elegant, oblong pieces.) My classmate, Alex, had the opposite problem - she knew what starch she wanted to produce (duchess potatoes) but was back and forth with the rest. She eventually decided on doing a roulade with shiitake mushrooms and thyme, and asparagus.
Because the food is prepared before hand and only arranged on plates at the judging site on Monday, we started our cold plates on Saturday and worked through Sunday. The food was first prepared and cooked, then packed into bowls after they had been glazed with porcine aspic, a type of savory gelatin made from the skin of pigs. The glazing process was performed on Sunday after searing the roulades. That process involved chilling everything and putting all the small things delicately onto toothpicks. We poured gelatin from large tubs into smaller bowls, then took the toothpicked items and dunked them three separate times into the aspic to build up a layer of gelatin that gives them a distinct glossy appearance. The process was tedious and requires patience because you're trying to make everything look amazing and perfect because the judging criteria is based on how everything looks (not a taste competition like you see on Food Network). After a long weekend of work, there was still no time to relax - we weren't even at the competition yet! That Monday we had to arrive before 8 am to take our plates to Milwaukee for the judging.
We prepared our plates for the judging and nervously waited as the judges made their rounds. There were so many other culinary students competing that day, I was just hoping to place. I was so excited for my classmate, Alex, when they called her name for second place. But I was utterly floored when announcing the winner for first place and they said my name!
This weekend of stress and hard work had totally paid off! I earned a first place medal and a knife set by Dexter. The competition was a great learning opportunity as well as a rewarding experience. I'd like to encourage our younger PopChiX members to follow their dreams and to never let the fear of failure to prevent them from ever competing or trying to succeed!
some photos take from https://www.wirestaurant.org/expo/events/college_results.php
Note from the editor: This is the first is a new series called "Achievement Unlocked" where we spotlight PopChiX members for their contributions to the community to include charity work, awards and acknowledgements, etc. It is important, especially for our younger members, to see that we're doing more than just playing games -- we're leaders and we're leaving our mark on the world. Nominations for PopChix superstars can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org.