With Conseiller Culinaire Provincial Christopher Koetke

Saturday, April 09, 2016 –

Chaîne Kitchen at Kendall College School of Culinary Arts


Midwest Regional Young Chefs Competition in Chicago

Todd Arkebauer, Vice Chargé de Presse, Chicago

On April 9th, the Chicago Bailliage of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs hosted the annual Midwest Regional Young Chefs Contest at Kendall College School of Culinary Arts and crowned Christo Vlahos Best Young Chef, Midwest. The winner was publicly announced at the Union League Club of Chicago during a black-tie gala dinner commemorating Chaîne Chicago’s 50th anniversary—the exciting climax to three days of epicurean festivities surrounding the Midwest Regional Assemblage and the culinary competition.

The contest required the five young chef participants to plan, prepare and plate an appetizer, entrée and dessert over four hours using a mystery basket of identical ingredients and items from a typically stocked pantry. When the chef contestants opened their baskets, the once-secret items they discovered comprised two local free-range chickens, a whole arctic char, head-on shrimp, cauliflower, red seedless grapes and wild rice.

In addition to winner Chef Vlahos, who was sponsored by the Chicago Bailliage and coached by new Chaîne member Chef Rôtisseur Pierre-Andre Checchi, the contestants were Cincinnati’s Nicholas Ellison, Sous Chef with Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment, coached by Chef Alan J. Neace, Sr.; Bo Lo, Cuisinier at Embassy Club West, sponsored by the Des Moines chapter and coached by Chef Michael Bailey; Pittsburgh’s Amanda Shoup, Cuisiniere at The Duquesne Club, who is mentored by Chef Norman P. Hart; and Kevin Stack, Sous Chef at The Purple Pig, sponsored by the Lake Shore chapter and coached by Chef Jimmy Bannos, Jr.

A distinguished panel of chefs judged the five contestants. Tasting judges for this prestigious competition comprised Momotaro’s Executive Chef/Partner Mark Hellyar; Corporate Executive Chef Steve Jilleba of Unilever Food Solutions; Jennifer Jones, Chef/Partner at Dos Urban Cantina; and Stephen J. Miller, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at MAC One and a Certified Master Chef. Floor judges were Marc Magiera, Director of Food Service at Peddinghaus Corporation and a Chef Instructor at Kendall; and John Reed, Owner at Customized Culinary Solutions and President of ACF Chefs and Culinary Professionals of Chicagoland. Michel Coatrieux, Associate Dean and Chef Instructor at Kendall College, served as the Kitchen Manager.

Competitors are required to be born on October 1, 1989 or later to compete in 2016 regional, national and international competitions. Chef Vlahos, 23, will travel to Sarasota, Florida on June 9th to compete in the Young Chefs National Finals, a contest among ten of the country’s top young chefs. An international competition will be held in Manchester, England in the fall.

The competition was closed to the general public, but for the first time in the history of the U.S. Young Chefs Competition, the Midwest Regional allowed members to witness the excitement and tension of the contest up close and personal. Ten members were treated to a sumptuous lunch: Champagne Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blanc 1999 was poured with passed canapés; scallops with lardons accompanied by cauliflower puree, haricot verts and brown butter paired beautifully with a fine 2009 Premier Cru Chablis from Domaine Jean Marc Brocard; lamb with fennel puree, roasted cauliflower, confit fingerlings and lamb jus was elevated by a 1990 St. Julien Bordeaux from Château Gruaud Larose; and an excellent 2004 Mülheimer Helenenkloster Riesling complemented a delicious dessert—strawberry shortcake, rhubarb sauce, whipped cream and fried basil.

In addition, national and regional Chaîne leaders were on site to survey the cooking contest, including Bailli Délégué des Etats-Unis Harold Small, Chancelier des Etats-Unis Heinz Hofmann, and Bailli Provincial Renee Wilmeth. Conseiller Culinaire Provincial Christopher Koetke, Vice President of Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, was instrumental in organizing and hosting the day’s events with Chambellan Provincial/Bailli de Chicago Bailli Mon Roldan.

During lunch, members learned about mystery basket competitions and how to be a tasting judge. After the meal, they watched the culinary contest in Kendall College’s Chaîne Kitchen, the first kitchen named after a Chaîne chapter by a culinary school in the United States. Observers and contestants alike were surrounded by fascinating displays of beautifully framed Chaîne memorabilia, including awards, ribbons, buttons, articles, magazine covers and a prominent banner. As the judges were presented with the young chefs’ creations, members simultaneously sampled and scored one of the competitor’s three dishes.

At the Chicago Chaîne’s 50th anniversary gala dinner later that evening, Conseiller Culinaire Provincial Christopher Koetke recognized each of the five outstanding competitors and then awarded a silver medal to the winner, Chef Vlahos. Nearly 100 members attending the event gave their admiration and a hearty round of applause to all five young chef contestants, who were each given a Chaîne chef’s coat. Conseiller Culinaire Provincial Christopher Koetke concluded, “I couldn’t be prouder of all of you.”