JJC Culinary Arts Professor and Chef Andy Chlebana is no stranger to winning competitions on national and international stages – so it was hardly a surprise that when he competed with the American culinary team in the Culinary Olympics last fall in Erfurt, Germany, he yet again brought home a gold medal.
The Culinary Olympics, or IKA, is the largest international professional competition for chefs, cooks and pastry chefs, bringing together more than 2,000 industry professionals from more than 50 nations to one place.
Chlebana helped earn the team its gold medal in the cold foods competition, and was personally responsible for the chocolate sculpture and two of the team’s six plated desserts. And even though he’s a veteran of the competition scene, he said this one was particularly intense.
“This competition was unlike any others I have done before. Everything had to be perfect: if it isn’t, your score goes down,” he said. “At times, the pressure was very intense. It wasn’t just me working on a showpiece. It was points for the team. I was part of team representing the USA and we needed to show the rest of the world what we could do. Any mistake I made would impact many others efforts. We were one team with one dream.”
Chlebana said that the cold buffet had unique requirements in that food needed to look cooked and appealing, but while also needing to remain at room temperature for several hours. These plates were judged on cooking techniques, precision, detail, cleanliness, uniformity, use of ingredients and glazing. All of these items were also coated in a layer of aspic (gelatin) to preserve them from drying out.
Chlebana’s team consisted of 10 chefs, along with a manager, coaches and support staff. Overall, the team finished fourth in the world, and first place in cold food.
“Competing is great experience,” he said. “It pushes me to try things I haven’t down before and innovate new techniques. When I am competing, I always look forward to coming back and sharing my experiences with my students. They are always eager to learn more about the area I have traveled to and learn about the competition.”
For now, though, Chlebana has decided to take a break from competing and will be focusing on a couple of other projects, spending time with his family, and looking forward to teaching students some of the tricks he learned in the culinary arts’ program beautiful new facility in the City Center Campus.
For more information about the culinary arts program at JJC, visit: www.jjc.edu/culinary-arts/Pages/default.aspx