Last week, I had the honor to be a judge at Ment'or's Young Chef Competition in Los Angeles. Four chefs between the ages of 18 and 24 were given the challenge of creating a striped bass dish from scratch in two hours. They were able to have one assistant, and they were not allowed to use recipes, their cell phones, or bring in anything made ahead of time from outside of the kitchen. While they competed, they were surrounded by us judges, media, cameras, and an audience.
I love competitions because you have to commit to it in order to do well, and you stick your neck out for criticism. It shows you what you've got, and how big your heart is. It tests your will. It inspires excellence, and the more difficult it is, the more you have to prepare for it, otherwise it will show. All four competitors displayed impeccable cleanliness. They worked on one thing at a time, then cleaned before working on the next. They showed respect for each other and displayed professionalism. These kids did an amazing job.
The winner of this competition was Skylar Stover. He is from the French Laundry and was a commis for the USA Silver Medalist at last year's Bocuse D'or in Lyon, France. He won because of his technique, execution, and sophistication. Some of the judges commented that the dish he made could easily be in a three star Michelin restaurant. "Pedigree" is based on your past experiences, your resume, where you worked, at what level you worked, and who mentored you. Skylar displays high levels of pedigree, and it showed in his dish and work ethic.
It was a moment to be there, and it's always inspiring to see people as they continue on their journey in pursuit of excellence.
For more information on Ment'or and the Young Chef Competition Series, please visit http://www.mentorbkb.org