I'm not a fan of reality-cooking shows and made-up drama for television. It bores me. But when I was asked to judge a six-course tasting menu challenge at L'Academie de Cuisine (LAC), it was an honor to accept something real.
Today for lunch I enjoyed an elegant lunch ... prepared by two teams from the Frank Morales class at LAC.
Much of the judging I do for events is the fun type with little significance, except for some kind of chef chest-puffing for the winning team or chef. Here the winning team would get bonus points on an upcoming practical exam.
The reality they dealt with is that this was first scheduled last Saturday during the power event of the century (no power, no go) ... and then for a practice session scheduled on Thursday, power that was on ... well, it went off again. That meant a 5 a.m. start today for the two teams ... divided into young men against the young women (I still can't past the '60s women's lib movement and say out loud 'boys versus girls.')
Judges for the tasting challlenge included host Francois Dionot, Founder/Director of LAC, Patrice Olivon, Culinary Arts Program Director, and moi ...
Starting at noon Team B blew me away with an Amuse consisting of a bouchee of marinated anchovies and oil cured olives -- a perfect blend of savory, the sea and salt to have me salivating and ready for the taste task ahead.
For the cold soup course it was Team A with a chilled red pepper soup with corn cream that had me thinking that it would be hard to imagine anyone on this 107 degree day eating any better than this. The puree was perfection, the chill refreshing and the fresh flavors of the pepper appropriately forward. I looked for the corn sweetness in the sublime cream garnish ... couldn't find it, but had no problem finding pleasure in the dish as presented.
It was Team B that pushed forward with the lobster and scallop when they did a simple butter poached lobster meat and placed it atop a grilled scallop on a simple green pea puree.
And so it went as vanilla bean panna cotta with summer peaches competed with a peach bavarian with basil puree. Did I mention the cheese course with roquefort taking its rightful centr stage position with accompaniments that included poached pear, walnuts, cracker and from the other team poached plums.
Francois selected a Robert Talbott Chardonnay (one of my favorites) and a delicious Burgundy, the name of which I shamefully forgot to add to my notes (10 points off for this judge).
After a short break we gathered in the demonstration kitchen for a critique where we went over course by course ... and learned from the tabulations that Team A, the women, had narrowly won over Team B ... when converting to a 100 point scale, the difference was 1.8 points.
Team A: Melissa Lalli, Sarah Jerdon
Team B: Matt Pellerito, Thomas Harvey, Timothy Wolfe
Instructor: Frank Morales
With such a great start to the day, it really doesn't matter that we set record temps for heat in the region or whatever.
This reality show received my highest rating.