Kelly Greens G&CC’s Sous Chef, Darrell Koehn entered into a culinary competition at the ACF’s National Convention—and won! Here’s what he made.
A few weeks ago, my Sous Chef, Darrell Koehn, and one of my line cooks, Danielle Waterman, brought a recipe contest to my attention that was associated with the American Culinary Federation’s (ACF) National Convention. We decided to enter with Koehn creating the savory recipe and Waterman creating the sweet recipe. Their task was to use a new product as the main ingredient: Smithfield’s pourable cream cheese. The chefs that submitted the top recipes would be going to the ACF National conference in Orlando, Fla. where they would have 45 minutes to prep their recipe and 30 minutes to cook and plate their dish.
We brainstormed many different ideas and settled on an Americana Carbonara for the savory and a duo poached pear dish with a citrus cream cheese for the sweet. They both set off to test and write their recipes taking multiple days to cook, measure, taste, tweak and re-cook their recipes until both came up with really good plates.
The savory dish was fresh pasta with the pourable cream cheese mixed into the dough. Then the pasta was cooked in straight red wine and tossed in a carbonara sauce using the pourable cream cheese as the base for the sauce. It was topped with a lemon bacon crustini and crispy bacon bits. It was a very complex dish that really highlighted the versatility of the cream cheese.
The sweet recipe was composed of two poached pears, one in white wine and one in red, and included citrus whipped cream cheese, chocolate soil and was drizzled with a red wine reduction. This was also a very interesting dish that I thought had a good chance of being chosen as one of the top four. We submitted the recipes and photos that were required and waited for a response.
A few days later we received the email we had been anxiously awaiting; Koehn’s savory recipe was in the top contenders! Koehn excitedly began practicing the very next day.
Now my Sous Chef is a very dedicated man. When he puts his mind to something he truly focuses and commits himself to reach his goal. He practiced day and night to get ready for this cooking contest. Waterman assisted him by helping to write down his recipe steps, prepping out practice rounds of ingredients, timing him and even videotaping him to help him prepare for this event. I called in a favor from a former chef of mine who is an ACF accredited instructor, evaluator for competitions and certifications. He came in for a whole day and worked with Koehn to prepare him for being judged. Koehn took all of his critiques and advice to heart and worked very hard to prepare himself for the contest.
Before the contest arrived I spoke with my GM and also informed the Board of Directors of the upcoming event. They were very excited and supportive of Koehn and his quest to bring the win home to Kelly Greens. We got Koehn a hotel in Orlando for the day before the contest through the end of that week so he could get up there, settle in and be mentally prepared for the contest. We also wanted him to enjoy the rest of ACF National Convention which he had access to because of the contest.
With his car packed with all the pots, pans, smallwares and plates he would need, he took off for Orlando. Waterman and I would be driving up the morning of the event to support and document his contest. Once we got up there, we joined Koehn for the prepping portion of the contest. During this section, he hit his timelines and completed the prep he needed to be ready for the cooking portion of the contest. He was up against two dessert dishes that were somewhat basic but also looked like they would taste good, but because Koehn’s dish was so complex and involved many different cooking techniques I felt he had a good chance of winning if he completed on time.
He brought his prep to the main stage and started to cook. I was able to live steam the contest to the Kelly Greens Facebook page so our members could watch him compete. Koehn did amazing! His dish turned out perfect and his timing was spot on. When he brought the plate to the judges I could see they were impressed with what he had done in the short amount of allotted time. We waited with anticipation while the judges conferred and submitted their scoring sheets. Koehn won first place!
He was presented with a cash prize and a bunch of Smithfield swag, but the biggest prize was the pride he had in himself and how he had represented Kelly Greens. Our members, our team, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. He even inspired two line cooks to enter competitions in the September NRA convention contests. Hopefully, this victory will be the first of many that my team will bring home to our club.