The Duquesne Club’s Pastry Chef, William Racin, CEPC, believes his recent ACF win has not only improved his skill set, but also that of his pastry team.
They say competition builds character. But for William Racin, CEPC, Pastry Chef of The Duquesne Club (Pittsburgh, Pa.), it has also made him a better chef.
Earlier this summer, Racin competed in the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Pastry Chef of the Year competition and won the top title: ACF National Pastry Chef of the Year for 2018.
“[Racin] has not only demonstrated considerable skill in the kitchen throughout the competition process…but also devoted significant energies to sharing his expertise throughout his career,” ACF National President Stafford T. DeCambra said in a release announcing the award.
Those comments are indicative of Racin’s management style and commitment to his club and his team.
“The biggest driving force for me to compete was The Duquesne Club’s Executive Chef, Keith Coughenour,” says Racin. “He’s a legend in the ACF. He told me competition would make me a better chef—and he was right. This competition helped me refine my skills and focus on my craft. But it also had a huge impact on my pastry team.”
During the competition, pastry chefs had two hours and 30 minutes to prepare and serve three items representing the designated theme, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”:
- a cold-plated dessert featuring Iemon, buttermilk and plum
- a signature cookie
- an edible showpiece at least two feet tall, composed 75 percent of either chocolate or sugar work
A panel of ACF-approved judges determined the winner.
Racin’s winning desserts included a pistachio cherry spritz cookie and a buttermilk plum crescent featuring cornmeal cake, buttermilk panna cotta, buttermilk lemon sherbet and plum gelée. His showpiece consisted of dark chocolate, white chocolate and pastillage.
“Preparing for the competition was hard,” he says. “We were busier at the club than ever before. But that gave me a chance to delegate, and it gave my team a chance to expand their skills.”
With a team of eight cooks in the pastry shop, Racin’s operation at The Duquesne Club is extensive. At any one point, the club is running between four and five pastry menus while producing nearly ninety percent of its products in-house. This includes everything from breads and ice creams to chocolates, jams and desserts.
“A mentor of mine once told me how competition is just a moment on a timeline, and that the outcomes—good or bad—are quickly forgotten,” says Racin. “He said competing is about how you practice and what you learn as a professional and about yourself.
“This whole process has given me and my team a growth mindset,” he continues. “It’s made us all think more critically and push the limits of what’s possible. I can see them grow as I grow. It’s exhilarating. We will continue on this path, improving the pastry experience for our members—and ourselves.”