“Bring it on.”
Those were the words of Junior Culinary Team Canada Team Canada manager Craig Youdale on the team’s first competition day at the Culinary Olympics, despite last-minute challenges hurled the team’s way.
On October 21, the night before the Edible Buffet Competition, controversy erupted at a manager’s meeting. Culinary Olympics officials surprised team managers with mandatory changes to their programs. They were told that must use event sponsor plates, instead of the plates they had planned to use. They were also informed that dessert must be served a la carte action style, instead of the plated presentation they had planned.
Despite the added heat on competition day October 22, Youdale and his team remained cool, taking the changes in stride. Youdale knows that when the unexpected happens, training kicks in. He has prepared his team so they are well equipped to take the heat in the competition kitchen.
In fact, the program changes to the Edible Buffet competition are one of many challenges his team has had to deal with on their road to the Culinary Olympics.
All of the team’s equipment, pre-shipped in 12 tote boxes scheduled to arrive in Germany before the team’s flight touched down, were held up by German Customs. After three sleepless nights, the totes were released – just days before the opening ceremony.
The team’s custom-ordered chef jackets arrived with the wrong buttons – plastic instead of the cloth buttons regulated by the Culinary Olympics. Last-minute sewing of proper cloth buttons was done just in time to the team’s flight to Germany, thanks to help from chef professor Catherine O’Donnell.
“Anything that you think no way can happen, it happens. And the team that is prepared for it, is the one that’s successful,” said Youdale.
On October 22, Junior Culinary Team Canada was among the first teams to compete in the inaugural Edible Buffet Competition at the Culinary Olympics. Traditionally, a ‘cold’ competition was held, where the food was glazed for presentation and not consumed. The team had originally prepared for the cold competition when they first assembled as a team three years ago, and has since adapted to the new program which is being executed for the first time ever at the Culinary Olympics this year.
The edible buffet consists of finger food and terrines that are presented on a platter and two action stations – one for the main course and one for dessert. During the rigorous five-hour marathon, teams will be judged on factors including cleanliness, demeanour and efficiency, in addition to taste of the food they prepare.
While each team begins the competition with a perfect score of 100, judges deduct points for any infractions. Teams with scores of 90 or higher are awarded a gold medal, while teams with 80 or higher gain a silver medal, and those with 70 or higher receive a bronze.
Members of the five-person junior team remained confident as entered into the first day of the biggest competition of their lives.
Megan Proper was focused on dealing with changes to the dessert program, ensuring that everything was delivered upstairs at the right time, the right temperature and the right texture, with the added challenge of delivering the temperature-sensitive dessert a la carte style.
“I just want to make sure everything is tempered properly and that I pull it out of the freezer at the right time,” she said. “I just have to play with it and make sure that it doesn’t seep, it doesn’t bleed. Other than that though, I think I should be fine.”
Daniella Germond was excited to go into the Edible buffet competition. “It’s going to be fun,” she said.
She felt positive about being able to handle any unexpected challenges. “We have done a lot of offsite caterings and practices and we’re used to showing up and not knowing what’s going on,” she said. “Craig said something the other day, ‘Don’t worry about the problem; worry about the solution.’”
Robbie Aggarwal also said he had confidence in himself and his teammates.
“I know what to do, no one else can do my job better than me, and that’s all I’m thinking about,” he said. “Just getting in there, starting the clock, getting my knife on my board and staying in there head down. Four hard hours. Then move. One hour up top.”
The Edible Buffet competition was live streamed. View the videos on the Culinary Team Canada Juniors Facebook page here.
Competition Day 2 (three-course luncheon) on Oct. 24
Closing ceremonies: Oct. 26.
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