Culinary Sagacity

~Thought for Food~

The Cathayans believed that the soul or mind is located not in the head but in the stomach.

Doubtless this explains why they fret so much about the preparation and serving of food.

It may also explain why their memories are so much better than ours.

Information is stored not in the finite head, but in the expandable stomach.

--Cyrus Spitama in Gore Vidal's Creation

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Paris Gourmet's 20th Annual U.S. Pastry Competition

When we arrived at the International Restaurant and Foodservice Show in NYC today, despite nearly 500 other distractions, we headed straight for the Dessert Pavilion, location of Paris Gourmet's 20th Annual U.S. Pastry Competition.

As the judging was underway, we got to peruse the isle of sugar and chocolate showpieces made by this year's competitors under the theme Give My Regards to Broadway. Having conducted our own little judging of all of the showpieces, I picked my personal favorite, then doubled back and asked the Chef Ajith Saputhanthri of Russo's on the Bay in Howard Beach, NY, if I could get a photograph of him and his Sous-Chef next to their showpiece—adding that I thought it decidedly the best, and that they would certainly win. They smiled and reacted most modestly. Nevertheless, when I heard Chef Saputhanthri's name announced as the winner, I wasn't at all surprised.

What I loved most about Chef Saputhanthri's showpiece, featured first in this article, was that the bulk of it amounted to one solid chunk of chocolate, carved by hand as if it were marble—what to me is the most artistic of chocolate techniques. Yet when I look at a showpiece, though I notice the varying degrees of difficulty, cross-skill sets and techniques, what always strikes me remains the beauty (or lack thereof). For me, a showpiece must above all else be aesthetically pleasing, Chef Ajith Saputhanthri's was stunning.

Enjoy the photos below, beginning and ending with this year's winner. After walking the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center all day, I'm exhausted. So I'll tell you all about those 500 other tempting distractions after I do it all again tomorrow.

Ajith Saputhanthri of Russo's on the Bay in Howard Beach, NY

Other Finalists Presenting Showpieces

Jerome Le Teuff of The Ritz Carlton, Palm Beach, FL

Salvatore Settepani of Pasticceria Bruno Bakery & Restaurant, Staten Island, NY

Julie Jangali of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Washington, D.C.

John Quinn of The Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa, Pasadena, CA

Andrew Chlebana of Joliet Junior College, Joliet, IL

Monica Ng, Professional Pastry Consultant, New York City

Thierry Aujard
of Jummi Duffy's Catering, Berwyn, PA

Florian Belanger's Awards Ceremony Address

Ajith Saputhanthri Accepts His Prize

Regina Varolli

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