The Intercontinental Hotel Culinary Clash 2016
Have you every watched Chopped? Or Master Chef? What about Iron Chef?
God, there’s a million of those shows on TV, isn’t there? I feel like everyone has their favorite that’s their guilty pleasure. I think I’ve binged watched all of them before.
As many times as I watched them though, I always told myself “there’s no way I’m EVER going to do that.” Anyone who knows me knows I don’t have that competitive spirit, at least not with other people. I compete with myself all the time, but it’s hard for me to watch these shows with the egocentric assholes (oops… does that sound harsh?) that like to run their mouth off.
So when the opportunity came to enter a competition through the school, my immediate reaction was “HELL no.” But my husband did the thing he does best, and asked me “why?” So I had to think, “why am I not going to do it?” My excuses of only being a few weeks into the program and not wanting to make an ass of myself were quickly beaten down. “What do you have to lose? You’re only in Level 1. No one will expect anything from you. If you lose, so what? But if you win, how cool would that be?” “Fine. I’ll do it.”
The Culinary Clash is an annual competition put on by the InterContinental Hotel in San Francisco and the 1 Michelin Star restaurant inside called LUCE. They partnered with a few of the area’s culinary schools for the first few years, but have been working with ICC for that last couple. There were four rounds to the competition:
- Round 1 is a mini clash between all the students at the school that wanted to sign up. There were 12 of us from all different levels. Some were at the beginning like me, others were already in their externship. We each had a basket of mystery ingredients (which turned out to be scallops, kale, rainbow carrots & blood oranges) that we opened and then had 30 minutes to make 3 plates of something to present to the judges. The top 6 were selected to move on to the next round. I made a seared scallop with a blood orange gastrique, kale pesto and rainbow carrot and radish quick-pickled salad. Exactly like “Chopped.” And I made it to the next round!
- Round 2 was more intense. The final 6 of us had to each create a three-course menu, cost it out, write out all the recipes and present it to a panel of judges. In addition, we had an hour to prepare the entree from our menu. We were judged based on creativity, taste, presentation and whether or not it fit with the LUCE mission. The top 3 were chosen to be the “chefs” in the next round and the bottom 3 were partnered with the chefs. Again, I made it to the next round. Woo!
- Round 3 was my favorite. It was less of a competition like you see on TV and more of just doing what I love to do. Each of the final 3 got to take over the LUCE kitchen for a Sunday evening. We had all weekend to prepare everything for our menu and then the restaurant served our tasting menu, along with wine pairing, to 60-90 guests. It was stressful to be in charge of preparing food for that many people, but it was exhilarating to watch my dishes leave the kitchen - something I created! I was the first Sunday, having finished 3rd in the last round. We were graded by a table full of 8 judges, as well as the guests who ate our dinner and the executive chef of LUCE, Chef Daniel Corey had a say as well. And I won! So, on to the last round. The video from that night can be found here.
- Round 4 will take place on May 17th in Mexico City against teams from other Intercontinental Hotels from around North America. I believe there are 6 total teams. We will have 2 days to prepare our appetizer and entree as “tastes” or little canapés. Other than that, the details are still a little hazy. But I’m extremely excited to go to Mexico and cook for lots of people!