The Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung (IKA), commonly referred to as the “culinary Olympics,” held every four years in Erfurt, Germany, begins Oct. 22. Meet ACF’s Director of Certification, Jeremy Abbey, CEC, CEPC, CCE, CCA, who will be competing in the Individual Culinary Art category in Erfurt on Oct. 22 and Oct. 24.
Abbey, a member of the ACF Michigan Chefs de Cuisine, is a Detroit native and recent St. Augustine transplant who earned a bachelor’s degree in sustainable food and agriculture from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts, and an associate in culinary arts from Schoolcraft Community College, Livonia, Michigan.
We Are Chefs catches up with Abbey before his trip to Germany to learn about how competition has influenced his career.
In what categories are you competing at the “culinary Olympics”?
JA: I am entered to compete in the Individual Culinary Art category on Oct. 22 and Oct. 24. The requirements are to present a festive five-course meal along with four appetizers for six people, two of which are hot and two of which are cold. All the food must be presented cold.
This is said to be the hardest category in culinary competition. A group of us from Michigan have formed the “Great Lakes Culinary Team” to help support each other. There are four members on the team entering a total of seven times. The same group competed at the World Cup in 2014 and we had a great time. We are looking to do the same at the Olympics.
How and why did you get into competing?
JA: I competed a little here and there outside of ACF early in my career. It wasn’t until I took the CEC practical exam that one of the evaluators recommend that I think about competing. A few months later, I drove to North Carolina for a mystery basket competition and haven’t looked back.
Do you feel that competing helped you in your career?
JA: Competition changed the way I cook, work and think about food. It forces the cook to think about their movements in the kitchen, to be precise in execution and the fundamentals. Developing menus for competition has given me the ability to slow down and really think about what is going on the plate, how the diner will consume it and how it will be executed.
Being open to feedback, good or bad is a critical skill that is developed. Taking feedback and implementing it into your food is a critical piece. Competition forces you to grow and continue to learn.
What advice do you have for those who are considering competing?
JA: Do it. Find a chef to mentor you and start. Have an open mind and always welcome feedback and criticism.
Is there anything you’ll be doing differently in Erfurt than you’ve done in the past at other competitions?
JA: I’m really going to have fun and cook the best I can. This time, I am not concerned about earning a medal. I want to present great food to the best of my ability and enjoy the comradery of great chefs.
How would you describe your approach to food?
JA: Maximize the properties of the ingredient and focus on customer satisfaction.
What cookbooks are on your shelf?
JA: Escoffier has never left my shelf and will continue to be a source of reference and inspiration.
Do you have a favorite tool or utensil in the kitchen?
JA: A spoon and a chef knife.
What is one essential skill that you think is often overlooked in young chefs’ training?
JA: Understanding of cooking philosophy and fundamentals.