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JJC chef helps U.S. claim another gold medal

The finished pastry buffet thchef Andy Chlebanco-created inaugural international culinary competitiheld Dubai World Trade Centre.  |  Supplied photo

The finished pastry buffet that chef Andy Chlebana co-created at the inaugural international culinary competition held at the Dubai World Trade Centre. | Supplied photo

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Updated: January 30, 2014 6:10AM



After leading Team USA to fourth place in the international pastry competition Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie, in Lyon, France, nearly a year ago, chef Andy Chlebana of Plainfield, who has earned three gold medals and three silvers and many other awards, knew it was time to take a break.

Chlebana wanted to write a pastry textbook, prepare for his master pastry chef certificate and spend more time with his family: his wife Heather and their four children, Abigail and Annabel, 11; Andy, 9; and Adler, 6.

But then Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, asked the American Culinary Federation to organize a team of seven chefs to represent the United States at an inaugural international competition Nov. 16 to 18 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, and the ACF invited Chlebana to be one of those chefs.

“How could I refuse?” said Chlebana, the Joliet Junior College culinary arts pastry instructor and a certified executive pastry chef. “It was an opportunity to go somewhere I’d never get to go.”

The team brought home a gold medal, finishing second overall, according to a press release from the ACF. The U.S. team competed against 11 other teams — Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and Wales, the release said.

Each team prepared an a pastry and cuisine buffet in 40 hours, and 55 portions of a hot-food main course in 31/2 hours, the release said.

Chlebana said he and his partner, Susan Notter, program director for the pastry arts program at Pennsylvania School of Culinary Arts, divided up the pastry work, each according to their specialties.

Notter created the four French pastries and the sugar showpiece; Chlebana prepared the four breads and the chocolate showpiece; they each took two of the four cakes; and then split the six plated desserts.

The event promised to be intense. Previous competitions required many months of practice runs; the one at Dubai gave less than four months. Chlebana and Notter quickly decided which flavors and techniques to incorporate and adjusted accordingly as competition rules became available.

“We didn’t want to get too crazy,” Chlebana said, “so we put together a list of items we’d used before in competitions that we knew were solid.”

Once in Dubai, Chlebana and Notter had only two days to prepare all their entries. Generally, Chlebana brings premeasured ingredients to competitions. Not so at Dubai, so scaling alone took six hours, Chlebana said.

“We stayed up two days preparing the food,” Chlebana said. “We’d work for six hours, take a nap and go do it again.”

Ordering specific ingredients in a foreign country can be difficult. One chef on the hot foods team needed a turkey, which is an American item, Chlebana said. Another had ordered corned beef, which arrived canned.

“He couldn’t use it,” Chlebana said. “So he trimmed one of the steaks and brined his own.”

Production completed, he and Notter packed their entries into a truck, where they were transported to the convention center, 15 minutes away. Then came the unloading, assembling and displaying of those buffet items.

Perhaps the most unusual feature to this competition was the fact that Sheikh Hamdan assumed all expenses, which usually fall to the ACF for its sponsored teams, Chlebana said.

One suitcase alone can cost $350 for a round-trip flight, Chlebana said, so paying for seven chefs, along with food and accommodations for 10 days, can quickly add up.

“This was one of the nicest trips I’d ever done,” Chlebana said. “They even took care of our laundry.”

Despite the intensity and the exhaustion, Chlebana took time to experience Dubai culture: visiting the Gold Souk (a traditional market) and taking in a traditional Emirati meal at an open-air restaurant in the dunes surrounding Dubai.

Chlebana even brought home a few gifts: an old brass-style teapot with tea cups, and a box of spices, all wrapped in beautiful leather boxes, he said. The head-scratcher was figuring out how to pack an extra 15 pounds in suitcases that left home holding 49.5 of the allotted 50 pounds.

“We decided to throw out some of the equipment that had seen better days and should be replaced,” Chlebana said.



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