Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Food Column: Instructor wants to win a medal at Culinary Olympics - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

It's almost two weeks since the Olympics, and my kids are still hurdling over boxes in the living room, playing "beach volleyball" in the kitchen with a mini inflatable beach ball (although thankfully without the sand) and ascending the "podium" (the pullout couch) for their medal ceremonies.

Meanwhile, Shawn Culp, a culinary instructor at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Downtown, is gearing up for a different set of Olympics -- the Culinary Olympics, to be held Oct. 5-10 in Erfurt, Germany.

The United States will send four teams to the event: national, regional, military and youth. As part of the five-member regional team, Mr. Culp is being groomed to one day represent the U.S. on the national team, the highest level.

Mr. Culp likens the competition to sports: The regional team is like the "farm team" to the national team. Regional teams compete only against other regional teams from around the world. And the Culinary Olympics is held every four years, just like the regular Olympics.

The Culinary Olympics can be a little more complex for the competitors than the sports Olympics, in part because the Olympians need so much gear.

Each team will create a display table of foods such as pastries, vegetarian courses and other specialties. But the exhibit hall doesn't have cooking stations, so teams have to get creative. Mr. Culp's team has rented two RVs with mini-kitchens in which to do the prep work. And with 60 teams in the regional bracket -- a total of 1,500 individual competitors -- it can get a little crazy when all those people start schlepping food into the hall.

This has been a time-consuming endeavor. Mr. Culp and his four team members -- hailing from North Carolina, Illinois, Texas and Florida -- have been practicing once a month. Corporate sponsors such as McCormick and Unilever help to defray expenses, and Johnson & Wales University has provided practice kitchens. The five chefs have had to travel every month so they can meet together for practice sessions.

Mr. Culp was among a couple hundred applicants for the U.S. teams. Judges winnowed the applicants down to 30 who competed in tryouts for the national and regional teams.

This will be Mr. Culp's first trip to Europe, so he's getting excited. As far as competition goes, he says the team has practiced together so many times and preplanned so many details that "now we're just ready to do it."

Speaking of medals

Bardine's Country Smokehouse in Crabtree, Westmoreland County, won some national awards at the recent American Cured Meat Championships during the American Association of Meat Processors convention in St. Paul, Minn. Bardine's won first place, grand champion, and the Clarence Knebel Best of Show Memorial Award in the Lightweight Bone-In Ham class; first place, grand champion in the Country Bacon class; and third place, champion in the Whole Muscle Jerky class.

More chef news

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort announces a new chef de cuisine at its fine dining restaurant, Lautrec. Earl Morse, chef de cuisine of the resort's Aqueous restaurant, is moving over to take command of Lautrec.

Mr. Morse has studied under a Belgian pastry chef and at age 29 took over the kitchen of the White Barn Inn, a high-end coastal Maine restaurant.

He has been at Nemacolin for one year, during which time Aqueous won its first Forbes Four-Star ranking. (Lautrec is a Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond restaurant.)

Festivals

Greek Festival: Classic Greek food from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday at St. Spyridon, Monessen. 724-684-5411. Red, Ripe & Roasted Tomato & Garlic Festival: Cooking demos and tastings, garlic roast, tomato contest (enter your garden's ugliest, smallest or largest for a chance to win prizes), farmers market and children's activities. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Phipps Conservatory, Oakland. Donate a bag of fresh produce for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to receive free admission to the festival and the summer flower show, "Fountains of Youth." phipps.conservatory.org.

Taste of Cranberry: We listed an incorrect date for this event last week, so here's the correct version. Taste samples from more than 20 area restaurants from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 12 at Cranberry Municipal Center. Partial proceeds benefit the Butler County Humane Society. $12 for adults, $5 for children ages 5-12, free for children under 5, or $25 for a family pack of two adult tickets and two children's tickets. thechamberinc.com.

Meals

Farm Fresh Lunch Lesson: Learn to make delicious meals with ingredients found at local farmers markets, plus get a free lunch made with ingredients from vendors. Noon tomorrow at Pittsburgh Public Market, Strip District. Free, but register ahead by emailing events@pittsburghpublicmarket.org.

Summer Dining Under a Tent Dinner Series: Whole Foods chefs serve up fresh summer favorites outdoors, including gazpacho, grilled peach salad, whole wheat ravioli with local mushrooms, beef medallions and vegan cashew ice cream. 6:30 p.m. Aug. 30 at Whole Foods Market, East Liberty. $65 per person. Reservations required: 412-441-7960 ext. 215.

Frontier Dinner: Five-course gourmet meal with beer, wine and live music, plus a bonfire under the full moon. 6 p.m. Aug. 31 at Christian Klay Winery, Chalk Hill. $65 benefits the National Road Heritage Corridor. Reservations required: nationalroadpa.org.

Classes/demos

Farmers market demo: Jesse Sharrard, nutritionist for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, will do cooking demos at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Farmers@Firehouse market in the Strip District.

Sushi: Learn sushi-making from the chefs at Habitat in the Fairmont, Downtown. 1 p.m. Sept. 1. $65 includes materials, apron and lunch. Reservations: 412-773-8848.

Tomato canning: Slow Food Pittsburgh advertises this as an opportunity to "learn to preserve tomatoes every way from Sunday" -- canned whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, pickled green tomatoes and sweet tomato preserves. 11 a.m. Sept. 2 at Blackberry Meadows Farm, Natrona Heights. $20 includes lunch of pizza on the grill made with sauce from the class, plus the farm's fresh veggies. To register, email vredpath@aol.com.

Tastings

The Burgh Brew Tour: Four hours and three stops with beer tastings and food. 2 p.m. Saturday starting at Church Brew Works, Lawrenceville. $75; pittsburghbrewniversity.com.

Olive oil tasting: Heather Cramer of Olio Fresca shows patrons the ropes at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 31 at Pittsburgh Public Market, Strip. $10 per person. Reservations required by emailing heather.m.cramer@gmail.com.

Contest

Pin your tomatoes: Dei Fratelli canned tomato company is holding a "Pin It to Win It" contest on Pinterest and Twitter through Aug. 30. Share your favorite tomato recipes, photos and love of tomatoes for a chance to win a prize pack. For information: deifratelli.com.

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