As a big Top Chef/ Iron Chef/ insert any cooking competition here fan, I was more than thrilled to be able to participate in the Le Cordon Bleu Challenge last week at their school in Tucker, Georgia! The event was held to celebrate the national re-naming of the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and to benefit Ronald McDonald House. And as it turns out, it’s just as much fun to participate in a challenge as it is to watch, even though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.
We were given the challenge of creating Poulet Sauté aux Fines Herbes (Sautéed Chicken with Herbs) and lucky for me, I was paired with talented local chef Jeff Sigler from River Room, Fox 5’s Blaze, and quite a few VERY capable Le Cordon Bleu students who more than knew their way around the school’s huge restaurant kitchen. We got to work with the clock ticking down from 60 minutes as a hungry audience of more than 60 people watched and waited to judge our creations!
The dish our chef had in mind was inspired by a classic mirepoix combination – the celery, onion, carrot goodness that makes up every delicious chicken stock you’ve ever tasted. Our sautéed chicken sat atop an insanely good celery root cream, accompanied by pearl onions and shaved celery with pickled white beech mushroom salad. Some light and airy carrot foam (that yours truly whipped up) topped the dish off for a little extra flair.
Our hands were flying over pots and pans as the timer quickly counted down… I felt the true sense of stress and urgency the contestants on those shows feel as I piped the last of the celery root cream into our samples for the audience! Luckily, the audience enjoyed our flavor combinations – and our team walked away with the 1st place “Bleu” Ribbon! I’ll have a special sense of appreciation now when I’m watching other challenges, and will always remember my one night as a Le Cordon Bleu chef.