The ACF Culinary Team USA has been busy preparing for the 2024 IKA Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart, Germany, but ahead of that, six of the team members will be traveling to Luxembourg to compete this month in the Villeroy & Boch Culinary World Cup, Nov. 27-30.
Similar to the Culinary Olympics, there will be two main competitions: Restaurant Nations and Chef’s Table. For the Restaurant Nations, “we will prepare 110 portions of a starter course, a seafood dish, entrée and dessert,” ACF Chef and Team Captain Dan Holtgrave, CEC, says. “We have an hour to setup, and then production time is six hours and there is a two-hour service window. During the service, we will have an expo just like you would at a restaurant and will be preparing food for actual guests who have bought tickets to the event.”
For the Chef’s Table portion of the competition, the team will prepare a seven-course meal for 12 people, again with a six-hour production time and two-hour service window. Instead of a restaurant setup, the presentation will be buffet-style and include a dip and finger food platter, a carved platter, a vegan course, main course, dessert and petit fours.
The team’s last practices before the trip took place in September at Madison Technical College in Wisconsin, at Oregon Coast Culinary Institute in October, and in early November at Brightwater – NorthWest Arkansas Community College.
At these practices, “for the most part things are set in stone, but we’re always tweaking everything,” Chef Holtgrave says. At press time, the team was still finalizing the Chef’s Table entrée course because the protein selection – dry-aged chuck roast and rump steak — had had just come out in late August. “That’s always the curveball, but we had a feeling we knew what was coming—that’s now one of the dishes I’m in charge of so I’ve been busy refining that.”
Chef Holtgrave says the team has many strengths, chief among them the fact that everyone is so passionate about their work. “Up until last October, we had never practiced together, and [because of the pandemic] had to come together quite quickly. We’ve been able to do that because we’ve put our egos aside and are all level-headed and know what we need to do. It’s a good group of human beings and everyone on the team has a positive attitude. There are ups and downs, of course, and we’re all working chefs, but when we come to practice the first thing you’ll see is a big smile on our faces because we’ve been looking forward to getting together.”
The team maintains some Zoom calls to go over notes and weekly assignments and shares photos of dishes. “We’re always engaged in conversation,” Chef Holtgrave says. “It’s a great team.”