During last month’s trade show tour, our R&D Chef Kelly Sasuga represented Fresh Origins in one of the toughest, most prestigious culinary competitions in the United States. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) hosted the 2013 Catersource ACF Culinary Challenge, it brought together the nation’s most talented chefs to compete in a variety of cooking, decorating and carving competitions – awarding medals and certifications.
Kelly won her K1-Duck category impressing the judges with her asian style, Miso Glazed Duck Breast, Chinese Hand-pulled Noodle Stir Fry with Veggies, Smoked Duck Egg Roll, Kumquat Chili Gastrique, and Fresh Origins Micro Shiso. She received the ACF-Silver medal accumulating the highest score in her category!
When it came time to cook, the judges and audience watching were really impressed with how Kelly she moved and conducted herself in the kitchen. The judges especially, were astonished to see someone hand-pull noodles during a hot food competition. It was a risky task and the they knew it.
Chef Kelly Makes Practice Perfect with Noodles
Months prior to the competition, Kelly spent hours on hours practicing twice a week at the San Diego Culinary Institute, who sponsors the competition team. On top of that, she was able to commit extra time every day for two months, perfecting the hand-pulled noodle technique at home.
Requiring a certain level of finesse and applied muscle memory, unbraiding hand-pulled noodles is a very old and difficult technique that requires a lot of patience and practice. In the position of having to teach herself, Kelly mimicked videos of other chefs that were experts in executing the chinese art form. She had done her research. She even went to Martin Yan’s restaurant in SF, MY China to watch them make hand pulled noodles, and met the Master Chef himself! He was very friendly and briefly explained to her how the process worked as she watched Executive Chef Tony Wu masterfully pull these wonderful noodles. It’s really an exciting thing to watch.
Along the way, through timed trial and error, she found out what worked for her. She was able exploit the small details needed on her own, things like using the exact ratio of water to flour when creating the consistency of the dough – it needs to be perfect in order to pull noodles from it.
ACF Rules and Culinary Standards
Unlike most competitions where individuals compete against each other, here chefs compete against a strict culinary standard. Each competitor is judged and awarded points not only the taste of their dish but everything they do in the kitchen from: organization, sanitation, creativity, portion size, cooking skills and techniques, how they utilized their time, ingredients, flavors, textures, and presentation. Their allotted time is 15 minutes to setup, 60 minutes to cook, 10 additional minutes for plating and 15 minutes for clean up.
The Final Results
Since her part was over, cooking phases done, kitchen cleaned, and dishes received, the judges gave her an invaluable review. In fact, one of the judges came to shake her hand afterwards, applauded her on the obvious hard work she displayed and praised on her bold decision to use hand-pulled noodles in her dish. A couple of them also offered her a job! The end result was surreal, all Kelly’s feelings of anxiousness and nervousness subsided, she knew that all her hard work had paid off.
Her first time culinary challenge was finally over and with great success, now all she could do was think of what she could do for the next one!
Her next scheduled challenge is the 2013 ACF Culinary Salon Competition at the Le Cordon Bleu in Seattle, Washington on May 4th. We love showing our support to all chefs competing, so if you’re going to be attending or competing in the event, let us know!