This story by Vicky Collins on her blog talks about our efforts at Yosemite National Park to use produce, meats, eggs and dairy from local growers within a 150-mile radius of the park who use organic standards. She published it around Earth Day, I’m just now finding time to read it.
It’s been a busy start to 2010 in and out of the kitchen for me. I’ve been zipping around the country to several events with Delaware North Companies and am really pleased with our chefs’ efforts.
I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had the chance to comment on The Ahwahnee Executive Chef Percy Whatley and his good efforts at the Bocuse d’Or competition earlier this month. For those of you who missed it, Percy earned the award for the “Best Meat Platter” at the competition.
The Bocuse d’Or is one of the toughest culinary events in the world and this was a qualifier to make the U.S. team. While Percy did not make the final team, he should be very proud.
The qualifying event required Percy to create a fish and meat platter within roughly five hours. That may seem like a lot of time, but it’s not when you’re trying to make your work as close to perfection as you can. Every second is important.
I spent time at The Ahwahnee helping Percy prepare. We tried to simulate the timing of the competition as best we could. Percy worked hard. It takes a lot out of a chef to work at this level.
One of the best tips I would give a chef getting ready for a competition like this qualifier is to shoot for efficiency. You have to be efficient in everything you do. With Percy, I had him prepare his dishes and timed him. If he was 10 minutes over the time limit, we went back and looked for ways to save time. You have to understand you can’t get time back in minutes or big chunks. When cooking at this level, you have to be efficient and shave a second or two here and there.
For example, if you have to peel all sorts of items, don’t do it one at a time. Peel everything at once. That way it’s ready when you need it. If you have to wash vegetables, wash them all at once. If you’re pouring sauce from a dish, set the dish right next to your work area and not a foot away. Every second counts and that’s how you conserve them.
Percy worked hard and he took all these lessons to heart. I am proud of his work skills.
Alright, as I said, I’m busy, busy, busy. If you’re looking for more information about the Bocuse d’Or, visit http://www.bocusedor.com/2011/. If you’re looking for an overview of what happened at the qualifying event, read http://www.toqueland.com/ where Andrew Friedman gives a recap.
I have other things I’ll do blogs about soon. Talk to you then.
In Good Cooking Always,
Chef Roland Henin, CMC
I lived in Yosemite National Park for five years and definitely participated in many Chefs’ Holidays there. I participated as a “helper” and as a chef who conducted cooking demonstrations and prepared dinners. They are incredible events held at The Ahwahnee hotel each year.
I will be getting down to Yosemite later this month to do some work with The Ahwahnee Executive Chef Percy Whatley. While I won’t be attending any of the Chefs’ Holidays events, it will bring me to memory lane. In a recent e-mail I was copied on by Chef Percy I was reminded of the specialness of these events.
It’s an honor to be surrounded by so many world class chefs during The Ahwahnee’s Chefs’ Holidays events. They perform their cooking demos right in the middle of the hotel’s Great Lounge, visiting us from some of the finest restaurants in the country ~ New York, Atlanta, Houston, San Francisco, you name it. And the special bond we have is unparalleled. For a few short weeks each January, The Ahwahnee kitchen opens its doors to some of the most dynamic collaboration of culinary talent found anywhere, each of whom prepares one of the five courses served to guests attending the culminating Chefs’ Holidays gala dinners. These chefs work side by side with our Ahwahnee kitchen staff ~ it’s truly magical.
If you’re visiting Yosemite or just want to learn more about this event, that’s great news. This is the 25th year of Chefs’ Holidays. It will run from Jan. 10 to Feb. 4. It brings many of the best American chefs and culinarians together. People who visit get to enjoy tasting events, meet the chefs and a one-of-a-kind dinner at The Ahwahnee. It’s an event we chefs are very proud of.
For more information, head to
I’ll check in again once I’m done with my work with Chef Percy.
In Good Cooking Always,
Chef Roland Henin