Author’s note: Before you read the following piece, make note of two things: the international scope of this contest; and the potential this one contest has for turning into something truly significant on the Kentucky culinary landscape.
Why? Because Pearse Lyons is behind it. I doubt many people outside the animal feed business know what Alltech, his company, actually does, but know this: it’s an industry leader in hormone-free animal feed, and it’s made Lyons a wealthy man.
Wealthy men (and women) with vision do extraordinary things, such as launch side businesses like Kentucky Ale, Town Branch Distillery and Alltech Café Citadelle, a coffee grown on a Haitian plantation Lyons established to help that country’s people after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
When their vision leads to the creation of ideas (such as this event) that draw attention to their communities, those communities get people’s attention.
Mark my word, this contest bears all the indicators of becoming a significant chef-driven event for Kentucky, and if the Louisville restaurant community isn’t careful, its own rise to prominence could be upstaged by Lexington’s upstart efforts. (Remember, Alltech was the lead sponsor for the recent Equestrian Games, so don’t assume it’s new to big event planning.)
Were I not on vacation when this event happened, and had it not been for the short notice given on the event, Insider Louisville would have covered it. Bummer for us.
Following is an excellent summary supplied by Alltech.
Red, white and blue were the flag colors of victory on Saturday night as the $5,000 grand prize in the first Lyons Farm International Showcase went to Chef Jeremy Ashby, co-owner and executive chef of AZUR Restaurant & Patio in Lexington, Ky., and his international chef partner for the competition, Petr Elias, executive chef of Hotel Villa in the Czech Republic.
As we wrote about last week, the first-ever installment of this competition brought eight accomplished international chefs representing Ireland, Italy, Argentina, Spain, France, Peru, Brazil and the Czech Republic and paired them with eight leading chefs from Kentucky’s Bluegrass region.
According to a news release, the challenge of each chef team was to prepare a three- to four- course dinner that incorporated Lyons Farm beef and chicken as well as Alltech libations, including the Kentucky Ale trio of beers, Pearse Lyons Reserve whiskey, Town Branch bourbon, the bourbon-infused coffee drink Bluegrass Sundown and Alltech Café Citadelle, a Haitian coffee. The dinner was served as the evening’s special in the eight Lexington chefs’ restaurants on Oct. 26 and 27.
“I am really proud of the fact that I think we conveyed a sense of time and place—Kentucky and Prague—in our menu,” said Ashby. “I am very happy that he (Elias) shared some of his dishes and family recipes with me, and I am glad the judges took notice of the special style we tried to bring.”
The winning menu by Ashby and Elias included:
- “Hair of the Dog” – Lyons Farm chicken soup – Central European style – with Kentucky Ale beer foam, celery root and fennel pollen
- First Course – Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale beer cheese, sausage and house-cured country ham stuffed Lyons Farm chicken roulade with an Alltech Café Citadelle sorghum glaze, sweet potato, horseradish crème fraiche, buffalo chicken skin and petite vegetable crudité
- Second Course – Lyons Farm beef shoulder, fired with Town Branch Bourbon, served with Czech-style allspice cream gravy and Elias’ family parsley dumplings
- Third Course – Bluegrass Sundown ganache, Pearse Lyons Reserve vanilla cream, sweet Kentucky Ale butter cake, smoked honey, dulche de leche, sea foam, essence of Alltech Cafe Citadelle, compressed strawberry and melon glass
Masterfully and theatrically created on guests’ tables, it was Ashby and Elias’ dessert that sealed the deal for the three-person panel of expert culinary judges from Sullivan University in Lexington, Ky.
“We wanted it to be interactive. When the economy is bad, people are working hard and they come to eat, you need to have something fun,” said Ashby. “We painted their table.”
Following tastings at all eight restaurants, the judges determined the following category winners:
• Most Aromatic – Craig de Villers (Lexington) and Alfonso Crescenzo (Italy)
De Villers is a chef at Bellini’s. Crescenzo, whose specialty is Italian cuisine, is the chef de cuisine of Splendido Restaurant at the Ritz- Carlton in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
• Judges’ Choice (as opposed to highest total points) – Ouita Michel (Midway) and Alan Clarke (Ireland)
Michel is the chef and owner of Holly Hill Inn and Wallace Station Deli in Midway, and Windy Corner Market in Lexington. She is also the chef-in-residence at Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles. Clarke is the executive chef for The Right Catering Co. in Drogheda County, Louth, Ireland, whose clients include Microsoft, Hilfiger and Disney.
• Most Unique: Jonathan Lundy (Lexington) and Manu Buffara (Brazil)
Lundy is the chef and owner of Jonathan at Gratz Park. Buffara is the chef at Manu in Curitiba, Brazil, and teaches gastronomy at Centro Europeu.
• Most Creative: Rob Nathanson (Lexington) and Angel Fernandez de Retana (Spain)
Nathanson is the chef at Portofino and a graduate of Sullivan University. De Retana is the chef at IKEA Restaurant in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.
• Most Visually Appealing: Jeff Keatley (Frankfort) and Cyrille Berland (France)
Self-taught, Keatley has been the sous chef at Serafini for four years. Berland is the chef at Toques Rebelles Academy of Cooking in Caen, France.
• People’s Choice: Josh Winslow (Lexington) and Martin Angel Rodriguez (Argentina)
Winslow is the executive chef at the Triangle Grille. Rodriguez is the chef at Diapri in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
• Most Original – Andrew Suthers (Lexington) and Javier Ampuero Figueroa (Peru)
Suthers is the chef at The Village Idiot. Figueroa is the chef and owner of Ampuero Restaurant in Lima, Peru.
“This weekend some of the world’s greatest culinary minds came together to learn, to taste, to laugh and to inspire. They came from across oceans and vastly different cultures, bonded by their shared love for gastronomic excellence and eager to learn from one another’s techniques and flavor understandings,” said Dr. Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech, a global feed company, as well as its brewing and whiskey companies. “Lexington may very soon be the culinary epicenter of the Midwest, particularly as we look to welcoming even more of the world’s leading chefs for next year’s Lyons Farm International Chef Showcase.”