Great State: Competition Season for Chefs
MOORE, OKLAHOMA — Imagine cooking a main course with these ingredients; duck breast, grapefruit, turnip, carrot, and bok choi.
Fortunately, your chef is Gene Leiterman, a teacher at the Platt Culinary College in Moore.
He as an assistant too, and a coach, another Platt professor, Arly Smart.
“Chef, you have 25 minutes,” shouts Smart.
“This is really going to stretch him,” he says, “so I’m eager to play a small role.”
This cooking exercise is what you might call a workout for chefs.
Leiterman’s specialty is chocolates and pastries.
He says, “The crazy thing about chocolate is that it takes patience. It’s slow.”
He’s working on his savory dish technique for the 2013 Oswalt Cooking Challenge.
Gene didn’t know what he’d be working with until the 30 minute timer started.
“Just to get a feeling for what it might be like to cook under time pressure,” he explains.
“It’s a little daunting.” observes a kitchen visitor.
“Yeah. And you know what?” he replies. “I wish my secret ingredient was chocolate.”
So what does Leiterman do with his ingredients?
Well, he sears the duck.
The grapefruit goes into a nice sauce reduction.
The turnip, carrots, and bok choi become a pickled slaw.
He also takes a little corn and potatoes to make what he calls a bollote for a little starchy heft.
What comes out at the end is a nice looking plate that Chef Arly and others who taste declare a victory.
“It’s kind of a twist on the Duck L’Orange.” says Smart. “It’s an asian twist with the grapefruit and bok choi.”
There isn’t a lot to do when it comes to Leiterman’s wheelhouse.
The weekend prior to the Oswalt challenge, he’s taking some of his best chocolate delicacies to Atlanta trying to become Chocolatier of the Year.
Leiterman describes what happens there. ”All of the French chefs will line up behind a table and they will judge and critique my work.”
A chef workout might not expend more calories than it produces, but the idea is the same, training to be the best, at making other people worry about training.
Story Update: As of Monday 8-26 Gene’s quest to become the chocolate champion came up short but one of his employees at Coco Flow, a chocolate shop in Bricktown that he owns, is a finalist for the award.
The Oswalt challenge takes place later this week at the annual Oklahoma Restaurant Association convention.