Winning international competitions comes naturally to JJC Culinary Instructor Andy Chlebana, but each success comes only after a great deal of practice, hard work, time commitment and sacrifice.
Posted in: Culinary Arts– December 5, 2013
“I had told my wife I was done with competing after the Coupe De Monde,” said Chlebana, who competed as the captain of Team USA in the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie, an international pastry competition, in Lyon, France this past January. “The stress and time away from family can be draining. But when we heard about this competition opportunity in Dubai, my wife encouraged me to do one more.”
That opportunity was the chance to be part of the American Culinary Federation’s team representing the United States in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, at the first ever Dubai World Hospitality Championship, Nov. 16-18 where Chlebana and his team ended up winning a gold medal and second place out of 12 teams.
The team earned the gold medal by scoring in the 100-90 point range, but took second place since first-place winner Singapore had bested them by a mere two points.
Chlebana was one of seven chefs on the U.S. Team, which also included Edward Leonard, team captain and president culinary education/corporate chef, Le Cordon Bleu North America; Brian Beland, executive chef/director of food and beverage, Country Club of Detroit; Joachim Buchner, executive chef, Chevy Chase Club, Chevy Chase, Md.; Carlo Lamagna, executive chef, Benny’s Chop House, Chicago; Susan Notter, director of pastry education, YTI Career Institute, Lancaster, Pa; and Austin Yancey, instructor, Le Cordon Bleu College Of Culinary Arts, Chicago.
The competition was intense, as teams were required to produce a pastry and cuisine buffet in 40 hours and 55 portions of the hot-food main course in three-and-a-half hours.
Chlebana and his partner, Susan Notter, worked on many of the pastry items together. They prepared six plated desserts and four french pastries (25 pieces each for a total of 250 pieces), four cakes, three showpieces, four breads and a hot dessert action station for the buffet.
Chlebana noted that this competition was very intense and different from most others that he has experienced.
“We had two days to prepare everything, and we started with nothing,” he said. “All of the ingredients were ordered by us before we went. In most other competitions we bring ingredients in scaled: scaling alone took us six hours. Access to the kitchen was not limited, and we could work straight through if needed. We took a couple of breaks and slept for about six hours during the competition. At the end of production we had to pack everything up into trucks and travel fifteen minutes away to the convention center where we would need to unload, assemble the showpieces and display our buffet.”
The competition was so consuming that it left little time to experience the culture of Dubai, but Chlebana said he enjoyed what he did get to see.
“The people of Dubai are very accommodating, friendly and eager to help,” he said. ”It was a pleasure to work with them and get to experience their culture.”
He also got to do a little sightseeing one afternoon when the team was not working, and they went to see the older part of Dubai such as the Gold Souk (market) to see all the traditional jewelry. They also experienced a traditional Emirati meal served in the desert, along with traditional entertainment.
“It was a thrill to attend this competition, win a gold medal and experience a bit of Dubai,” said Chlebana. “But now I’m going to take a break from competitions for a while. Family time will be the priority, as I need to catch up on the time I missed with them while we were preparing and away. In addition to my normal teaching responsibilities, I need to finish my manuscript for my textbook I am working on and prepare for the Certified Master Pastry Chef Exam, scheduled for later in 2014.”