Thursday, October 4, 2007


Yesterday was the Utah Food Service Expo in Salt Lake. As part of the expo, the Utah chapter of the American Culinary Federation held a mystery box competition for Junior and professional members. I joined a former classmate, Dareq, to compete. Our charge was to produce a three course meal for four in two hours using ingredients that were not known to us until our two-hour time limit began (and the use of common table items, which are basic produce, spices, and other staple ingredients.) Our mystery box contained: Fennel, edimame, a spaghetti squash, a whole duck, an entire striped bass, orzo, the subprime veal loin cut and... wait, what's this? a bunch of duck fat? No, it looks like a translucent chicken breast. It's some kind of organ. I suggest that maybe it's a sweetbread. Dareq says that there's no way it's a bread. No, not bread, I say, a sweetbread. He thinks it's a liver. I have never in actuality seen a sweetbread in my life, so I suppose he must be right.
Turns out he wasn't, as one of the judges pointed out. And a sweetbread is the thyroid gland of a calf; that much I know. What I don't remember from my studies is how to cook it. I worry so much about it as I am cutting out duck breast, fabricating fish fillets and butchering the veal, that I decide I need to stop thinking about it for a moment- and then I never think about it again. Oops.
Turns out we did pretty well with our meal anyway, despite the loss of points due to the lack of sweetbread on our menu. We compete against a standard, not each other, so there were a couple certificates of participation and even fewer bronze metals awarded. No gold or silver to the student teams. We somehow squeaked out a bronze, which I am actually pretty proud of considering our dishes didn't turn out the way we had planned.
At the end of the the awards ceremony Chef Wendy, the head of the competition, was thanking the vendors who donated or lent stoves, equipment and products to the event. She ended by announcing "A special thanks to Nicholas foods. They put together the mystery boxes, so you can blame them."
The line got some laughs, but all I have to say is: Touche, Wendy. Touche.

From top clockwise:
Fish course: Poached striped sea bass on a bed of spaghetti squash with an Italian tomato sauce,
Salad course: fennel and orange duck salad with edimame beans,
Entree course: pan-fried cuts of veal with vegetable orzo pasta.

Sweetbread, anyone?

1 comment:

Jessica said...

How exciting! I am so impressed. I wish I could have come to watch.