2017 US Pastry Championships- Bronze Medal Winner-
Chef Manuel Bouillet

This years Bronze Medal Winner at the US Pastry Championships was Chef Manuel Bouillet of Barry-Callebaut, Chicago Il.

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2017 US Pastry Championships- Silver Medal Winner-
Chef Richie Pratadaja

This years Silver Medal Winner at the US Pastry Championships was Chef Richie Pratadaja of Fika, NYC.

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An interesting weekend

by Chef Jack Fernely

BanquetI finally took a day off today. The first in quite a while.

Despite my Sous Chef slipping in grease on Saturday and losing a full pan of tri-tips right out of the oven, all is well generally and the wedding on Saturday went off almost-flawlessly, at least from my perspective.

There were far too many kids for my liking, I don't understand parents today, they seem to be clueless about their children and discipline. I cannot blame the kids, they're dragged along to these social occasions in clothes they don't like to mingle all day with people they don't know, naturally they are going to be rebellious. I felt sorry for the floor-staff having to contend with a plated service.

Many of us look forward to a wonderful experience and pleasurable food when we go out to eat, especially when celebrating a special occasion, it's as simple as making a reservation and spending the time of our lives and enjoying every moment there is to cherish with a significant other or even alone, feeling the nourishment that food brings into our daily lives. It's a simple concept to understand, but what we over look is asking ourselves where all of this comes from? and how is it made possible? There are people in this world, given the talent, that do this for a living, and make it their purpose in life and it's where things get more complex. What a chef to you is someone who is intelligent and creative, who creates food from their sou driven from experience and culture, but what is really going on in those mind's behind that unimaginably claustrophobic kitchen line? what truly lies in between the walls of a professional kitchen? I'm sure if you watch the food network it all seems too easy and perfect, but the truth is that on our side, it is more comparable to a battle field rather than the relaxing experience that one feels in the dining room.

Being a Chef ...is a lifestyle rather than a job or looking forward to a paycheque. As much as it seems like hell in a kitchen filled with heavily sweating bodies running around swearing as we like to call it our "language", its more than that. It's more than a plate of food coming to your table, it's more than the server who has a fake smile while trying to figure out how to make time go by as fast as they can in order to get ****faced for the night. How about the cooks? How about the Chef? and how about the hard working farmers or the millions of hard working employees in the many food producing manufacturing companies like Maple leaf or Tyson? ...To one it may seem all too simple to overlook the logistics of a restaurant. Do we really understand the concept and why we cooks do what we do? Cooking is a beautiful thing, and in no means am I trying to put down home cooks in any way, but next time you cook dinner think about having to do that 50 times over, and that's the challenge that your ordinary cook working at a casual dining establishment is faced with every shift. Why we do this? we do it because its our "safe zone", and we do it because there's a unique connection with nature and food, along with the  hectic environment of a professional kitchen, that actually gets our adrenaline going. This may sound crazy to you but its what we feed on every day of our lives, because nature will always be something that anyone can connect to for comfort. It's what makes our lives, the ethics of mad handling, and the very fact that we can bring our emotions out into a form of art which people sometimes take for granted and don't understand where this undying passion for imagination comes from. Us chefs, we truly do not care about the reservation book, what matters is what were faced with on a daily basis, and what matters is being able to explore the science of what we are actually doing and striving to understand the beauty of every ingredient we discover.

 It's much easier to express our emotions when we're in our "safe zone", a place where nothing matters, and a place where we have control over mother natures gifts that makes us want to test our imagination, and prove that we have the talent to make a masterpiece. Through this unique form of art, and God given talent, we can too express ourselves. We can too be the one's that appreciate what's important to us, its the only thing we really know and understand. There's a complex hiearchy that we live and experience day in day out, and it only gets harder when your not there. Think about a painter's palette, and that's our tongue. Think about a soldier's armour, and that's our whites. Think about the first time you ever experienced a playground, and that's our kitchen. Think about the first time you got a present for christmas, and that's what we feel when we see a perfect ingredient. Why this much? why this far? why this unreal dimension of appreciation for something so simple? because it's what every experience in life taught us, that doing something you love will always, and forever stay with you. There is very little that we have control of, but the minute we step onto our "stage" and have the freedom of expressing what we don't know how to express in the real word, that's when it makes sense. It's where we can be the superstars behind the pain, when we can take something and express our complex emotions into a dish you pay an arm and a leg for. Come on, im sure the last time you ate out you've probably stared more at the price rather than the menu itself.

So what is it really about the perfect stainless steel and powerful equipment that get's us exited? What is it about bringing like minds together, and creating what you see as a menu at the other end? It is simply a place where every cook understands each other. It's where we can look at each other and read our movements, its where you take the "un" out of unreal and its where we can stay behind the scenes and show the world what we can do. Appreciation is one thing, but do you really understand the underestimated minds of those artists? When you meet a Chef, it may seem like the only thing him/or her is interested in is themselves, its true we're quite arrogant, but the truth is we all have a story. We all have something inside of us that needs to be expressed, and we all have had a life of hardship that only eases when we see that smile on your face for appreciating our form of art. have you ever sat there pouring your heart over your favourite song? have you ever found yourself gazing at a picture and saying to yourself, "this is unbelievably amazing"?  Then the next time you experience great food, think about it like there's a twisted artist standing behind those swinging doors. Our lifestyles don't get much more exiting other than looking forward to a drink and being able to talk to one another about our experiences of the day, there isn't many people ready to wind down after work at 2am anyways, but guess what? We wake up and go right back to it. Many are controversial about food being a craft or a form of art. It is surely a mix of both, the craft is in our hands, and nature, along with the science gastronomy brings us the creations that make the first impressions of a well constructed dish possible. Trust me, its only a couple of squeeze bottles and some fascinating innovative tools that make our industry do what it is capable of doing today. Ever heard of molecular gastronomy?

Would you believe that is what our lives moulded us into? it is what gives us the unreal stamina to do this for most of the day... Would you believe that our drive comes from unpretentious competition in our "battlefield"? This is the truth, and this is what is easy for us, it's what let's us experience a sense of understanding, more than anyone other than a fellow cook or chef, or a hard working local farmer will ever come to realise. It's easy to lose trust and be forgotten, but this talent we have been provided will develop more and more.. this stage we have will always be there. As much as there is a sense of accomplishment at the end of a busy lunch or dinner service, there will always be more drive to perfect our mistakes. This is an unstoppable passion, and every cook should  learn to appreciate it for what it is. We may seem like soldier's in the kitchen but there's an underlying personality within every artist that we have an urge to express. On the humorous side, its no surprise that us Chef's have one of the worst divorce rates. Learning to appreciate the hard work of making food possible, from farmer to plate,  will give you a better sense of the perception of a true chef, you don't always know exactly what's going on back there when your sitting down to eat.

For every cook or server that may read this and begin to even start doubting the above, i'm sorry but your probably not in it for what it is, either that or last night was your first shift in the industry. Arguably, even though hospitality/travel and tourism is the biggest and fastest growing sector in the World, it has taken its turns through technological innovation where customer service as a whole is being changed before our eyes. But for every food network addict that takes away skill but not passion, it's just isn't the same when the cameras are not rolling. Then what is it that really gets us exited to move on to bend the capabilities of our talent? ...its the smile,  and the emotions you feel when you experience what we on the other side don't always get to see. It's the experience that you're having at a time that we are probably swamped trying to run a busy service, so enjoy it for what it is, and don't overlook what great dedication goes into fueling our industry. It's the connection of your emotions and our stress which the "adrenaline junkies" in us crave, that makes our experiences in the hectic kitchen and the much calmer, much more well mannered dining room unified. It's what connects you paying your bill, to us feeling a sense of accomplishment after taking a beating in the kitchen. It's what let's us wake up the next day and think of how we can amuse, or excite another's emotions through the only thing we know how to do, our gift, our talent, the art of gastronomy. You may walk away from this thinking that it's not a joke to take an artist for granted, but just understand the concept of this being a life driven purpose. That appreciation should always be given to every chef, every cook, and every farmer out there.  The logistics of what we do behind those swinging doors, and what you experience in the dining room, although in separate motives and experiences, truly does come together. To me, and for every person in this industry that is dedicated to what we do and just that, it's called ... passion.