Young Chef Competition

“His winning menu included a starter of lamb chop and chicken hearts on pumpkin cream with kohlrabi and beetroot chutney in a red wine and chocolate sauce…” Catch a glimpse into the gourmet world of competitive cooking with Rachel Wagner as she witnesses the 2nd annual young chef competition of the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs in Jerusalem.

The Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs, founded in France in 1960, is “an international gastronomic society dedicated to bringing together professional and non-professional members from around the world who appreciate wine, cuisine and fine dining.”

On May 3rd 2010 the Israeli contingent of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, which just celebrated their 40th anniversary with a gala affair at the David Citadel Hotel, marked another important milestone – their 2nd official young chef competition.

The competition is open to 20 chefs aged 27 and under. As the competition begins, each chef is given a box of mandatory ingredients, strictly defined proportions of additional goods from the fridge and pantry and 4 hours to create a 3-course meal. It’s just like Iron Chef – but real!

We arrived in time for the afternoon competition, just as the second round of 10 chefs were unpacking their boxes. Must-use ingredients included: 2 sea bream fish, a rack of lamb, chicken hearts, shimagi mushrooms, a pineapple, and black lentils. With no time to spare, the chefs immediately got to work creating their menus (in the first half hour) and starting their prep as the kitchen judges (well known chefs including Shaul Ben Aderet and Ilan Roberg) circulated, observing technique with eagle eyes and kindly locating missing utensils.

When we returned two hours later, the industrial kitchen at Hadassah College had turned into a 30-degree steam room with the 10 chefs in various final stages of bubbling, searing, simmering and plating. Down the hall, the 3 tables of judges – again, well known chefs and members of Israel’s culinary community, awaited the dishes to come.

Dishes are identified to tasting judges by contestant number only, so as to avoid any bias. As the judges taste, most aren’t shy about sharing their reactions; cries of delight and shouts of horror could be heard in tandem as they evaluated each dish on the basis of presentation (out of 10), taste (out of 15) and originality (out of 5). The young competitors prepare 4 plates of each course – 1 per table of judges (the fork thrusting free-for-all was a far cry from typical fine dining table manners) and a 4th to be photographed. Once all 30 dishes had arrived they were given a final once over by the kitchen judges, with Chef Ben Aderet had taken a hearty taste of whatever looked appealing, before us few spectators also got in on the tasting.

By 19:15 the results had been tabulated and everyone headed one floor down to a classroom for the ceremony.

Second and third places were respectively taken by Omer Razlee of Gan Yarok and Shmulik Amar of David and Yosef. First place went to Shahar Genusi of the Carlton Tel Aviv. His winning menu included a starter of lamb chop and chicken hearts on pumpkin cream with kohlrabi and beetroot chutney in a red wine and chocolate sauce, a main of sea bream filet on a bed of black lentils and vegetables with tomato salsa, potato croquette and sautéed olives and shimagi mushrooms, and for dessert (a most challenging dish, one might argue, as it had to be dairy-free in keeping with kashrut laws of the College) a crisp pastry cone with grape jam and lemon zabaione on pineapple brulee.

In addition to becoming a member of the Israeli chapter of the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs, young Chef Shahar Genusi will also go on compete in the international leg of the competition, taking place this year in Finland.

Bonne Chance!