Judging for a top chef
The road to a professional kitchen has never been traditional, even with the glamour and glitz on chefs over the years. There are a lot of ways to get there, from culinary school to second career seekers.
Growing Home, a non profit that provides job training, employment and community development through organic agriculture, is one of the non traditional paths. Its participants have barriers to employment for a variety of reasons, but through Growing Home, they are reconnected to the community and introduced to ways of finding employment through local agricutlure. We believe in its goals so much that we partnered with the organization, and its city lots are providing organic produce to our Chicago locations.
Recently, I was asked to judge its culinary cook-off program at Washburne Culinary Institute. I was honored - and excited.
The cook-off capped eight intensive classes at Washburne for the participants, starting with knife skills. They're interns at Growing Home who are especially interested in working in a professional kitchen. The goal is to help them make the connection between growing and harvesting local produce and using it in the kitchen to create great food.
Among the six participants, there was a lot of natural talent. The winner, Carlos Jaime, made rosemary chicken breast with red potatoes and asparagus. The chicken was perfectly cooked, sliced in half, and placed over the potatoes and asparagus. The presentation put his dish over the top.
The other dishes - grilled whole wheat pizza with chicken and goat cheese, and a chicken and sausage gumbo were also impressive. Next month, the winner and runner-ups will come to Big Bowl so we can cook for them. I hope they will be as impressed with us as we were with them.