The SOMM Journal

February / March 2016

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Page 73 of 132

{ }  73 The powers that be divided the somms into four groups: Red, Yellow, Green and Blue. I was on Team Yellow. Given a list of ingre- dients, and some planning time, our mission was to use the Santa Rosa Junior College Culinary Center kitchen to prepare a menu of three dishes paired with Sonoma County wine. The judges consisted of not just mere mortals—Evan Goldstein, MS; Karissa Kruse, President of the Sonoma County Winegrowers; and Michael Salinger, head of the Culinary Center—but also megastar TV chef of Zazu Kitchen + Farm, Duskie Estes. One wrongly placed E. coli bacterium and there might be a vacancy at The Food Network. Each team had 45 minutes and, since space was constrained in the kitchen, teams would enter with 15 minutes between them. We were drawn to start last, and that was where our problems began. Unlike Iron Chef (a pale imitation with an international reputation), where you are given a specific ingredient, all that we knew was that if another team used all of any ingredient then that ingredient was gone. So, technically, we could not plan our menu without a contingency plan. When we finally entered the kitchen (after enough time to plan a month of menus for the Sixth Fleet) we did indeed find that a lesser team had indeed finished up all the duck fat—ruining my master plan to make the judges ovulate in place over my thrice- cooked fries (loosely stolen from Heston Blumenthal). Our plan B was to small-dice the potatoes and make them part of a bed of vegetables that made liberal use of caramelized onions. Fortunately, we had two secret weapons on our team. First, Katie Carter had been flown in, at enormous expense, to repre - sent Jean-Charles Boisset's JCB collection, providers of the Russian River Pinot Noir Rosé that made chopping vegetables seem such an easy chore. Seconded to our team, she managed our sautéed salmon filet dish to perfection. I was terrified it would be regarded as too "ordinary" to impress the judges who, by then, would have tasted the dishes of all of the three lesser teams. Team Yellow had its back against the wall. She executed a Sonoma sparkling wine sauce (remarkably similar in conception to a Champagne sauce) that made it stand out. Second, Bruce Conard (of Trig's Cellar 70 in Milwaukee) showed that six months of steadily blackening snowdrifts each year can channel your time towards productive activity by producing sautéed duck breast like a pro. Other team members prepared vegetables and operated equipment. I made myself useful by staying out of the way. We finished our dishes with four minutes to spare, only to find that the team before us was such a disorganized rabble that they had not even sent theirs to the judges. Our plated dishes would get cold while we waited, surely dooming our hopes of victory. Fortunately, disorganized rabble proved too kind a term for our predecessors and, as announced at dinner that evening, Team Yellow was all conquering, presumably leading to a lucrative TV contract with the Food Network (I am still waiting). And, as expected, Sonoma County Chardonnay paired beauti - fully with our sauteed "Salmon Rosa" and Sonoma County Pinot Noir was a champ with sautéed duck breast. All conquering Team Yellow challenges the other teams to a rematch next year. Ryan Arnold, Lettuce Entertain You, Chicago, IL Josiah Baldivino, Bay Grape, Oakland, CA Eduardo Bolaños, Terroni, Los Angeles, CA Jenny Brost, El Dorado Kitchen, Sonoma, CA Joel Caruso, Pizzeria Ortica, Newport Beach, CA Andrew Chalk, SOMM Journal, Dallas, TX Bruce Conard, Trig's Cellar 70 , Milwaukee, WI Ted Damianos, Marta, New York City, NY Jhonel Faelnar, NoMad Restaurant, New York City, NY Keith Fergel, Taylor's Kitchen, Sacramento, CA, Maria Garcia, République LA, Los Angeles, CA Kayla Garcia, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, Houston, TX Meghan Haley, Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, Washington, DC Alex Joerger, Cost Plus World Market, Oakland, CA Lexey Johnson, Brick and Mortar Kitchen, Houston, TX Brent Kroll, Neighborhood Restaurant Group, Washington, DC Max Kuller, Fat Baby Inc./Estadio, Washington, DC Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen, RN74, Seattle, WA Cosmin Marinescu, Wine Meats Cheese, San Francisco, CA Brian McClure, The Greenbrier, W. Sulphur Springs, WV Anthony Minne, Plum Market, Chicago, IL Costas Mouzouras, Gotham Wines, New York City, NY Abel Muñoz, Mayfield Bakery & Café/Village California Bistro, Palo Alto, CA Elton Nichols, Canlis, Seattle, WA Teddy Panos, La Valencia Hotel, San Diego, CA Gary Sullivan, Montage, Laguna Beach, CA Jennifer Wagoner, Michael Mina StripSteak/ MM74, Miami, FL Andy Wedge, Husk, Nashville, TN Wilfred Wong,, San Francisco, CA Naureen Zaim, Eveleigh, Los Angeles, CA Fahara Zamorano, Rose Café & Restaurant, Los Angeles, CA Rania Zayyat, LaV Restaurant & Wine Bar, Austin, TX Participating Sommeliers and Wine Buyers Teams compete during the Iron Sommelier competition. Iron Sommelier IN WHICH THE ALL CONQUERING TEAM YELLOW TRIUMPHS OVER ALL COMERS AT COOKING A MEAL TO PAIR WITH SONOMA WINE

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