Chefs Under Fire 2010

We have all heard the adage that everything in Texas is bigger. Well that goes for chef competitions as well. Texans look at things shows like Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen as warm ups compared to their on culinary throwdown - Chefs Under Fire.Blowing across the Lone Star State like an East Texas wind CUF is bringing the heat your way. They plan three regional competitions in Houston, Austin and Dallas.  CUF contestants will be competing against their peers for a spot in the finals where he/she could be named Chef Under Fire 2010 by celebrity chefs and Iron Chef America contenders Chef David Bull, Chef Tyson Cole, and Chef Kent RathbunWhile the Chefs Under Fire 2010 Finalists are presenting their dishes to the Celebrity Chef Judges, YOU will get to taste the food as well and vote for yourself!

So recently I asked the people who organized Chefs Under Fire to define CUF.  This was there reply:
Chefs Under Fire™ 2010 is a statewide culinary competition hosted by Keeper Collection, LLC. With three Regional Competitions hosted in the Houston, Austin-San Antonio, and Dallas-Fort Worth areas, Chefs Under Fire contestants will be competing against their peers for a spot in the Finals where he or she could be named Chef Under Fire 2010 champion by Celebrity Chef Judges and Iron Chef America Contenders Chef David Bull, Chef Tyson Cole, and Chef Kent Rathbun.  Each Regional Competition will feature a unique local judges panel, but each Chefs Under Fire Contestant will ultimately be declared the champion of CHEFS UNDER FIRE 2010 by these three Celebrity Chefs at the Chefs Under Fire Finals.

This year's Final event will take place at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center in Austin on October 25, 2010.  Chefs Under Fire 2010 Contestants will be required to qualify as Professionals, defined as anyone who is or has been paid to cook or is currently enrolled in or has graduated from a Culinary School or Program. In addition, each Contestant will be required to enter the competition in partnership with a culinary school, restaurant, bar, caterer, or other food vending establishment. Chefs Under Fire is designed to not only promote the up and coming culinary talents of Texas but also to highlight the Texas Culinary Community as a whole.  In addition to contestants, the Chefs Under Fire Final event will be open to up to 300 attendees – tickets to go on sale in August.

Then I asked them what makes this year's competition different than last year (i.e., regional competition)?
We listened to all of the feedback received from Chefs Under Fire 2009 and have worked to make Chefs Under Fire 2010 bigger and better.  With so much culinary talent in Texas, we wanted to make this competition available to more than just Austin area chefs and foodies.  We also have narrowed the eligibility to “Professionals” only.  This allows Chefs Under Fire to promote not only the contestants, but the wonderful restaurants, culinary schools, and other culinary establishments that they are affiliated with.  Texas is a culinary destination, and we want to do as much as we can to inform others of the excellent Culinary Community it has to offer.
What does the winner of Chefs Under Fire 2010 receive:
7-night stay for up to 4 guests in a Grand Suite at The Grand Mayan Los Cabos exclusive luxury resort, December  10-17, 2010.

Then I got to ask Chef Josh Watkins of The Carillon at ATT Center a few questions.  Chef Josh will be one of the Celebrity Chef Judges for the Austin Regional Competition to be held on 9/27/2010 at The Texas Beef Council Demo Kitchen.  Here's the exchange:
Q:  Why did you decide to be a part of Chefs Under Fire?
A: It’s a great opportunity to assist in the growth of the chefs of tomorrow.

Q:  To what do you owe the fact that Americans are finally starting to care about what they eat?

A: Overall awareness. I think the public is more aware than ever where their food comes from, thus causing the concern that it is from a respectable and viable source.

Q:   What are you looking for in a winning dish in the Austin Regional Competition?

A:Balance of flavor presented in a unique fashion. Cooks must understand the importance of layering the four essential flavors in order to be successful.

Q:  What attributes do you think a contestant needs to have to be named the winner of the Austin Regional Chef Under Fire?

A: A passion for the trade, a sense of urgency, and the persistence that comes with a successful career.
Here's a little bio of Chef Josh Watkins:
Executive Chef Josh Watkins brings a new dimension to simplified elegance through a unique combination of ingredients and a blend of contemporary and classical cooking techniques.

Though a native Austinite, Watkins went to school at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, a city known for its culinary heritage. There he spent three years honing his culinary skills and developing his own ideas of food. His time in San Francisco included being a part of one of Reed Heron’s restaurant openings after another, Rose Pistola, earned the James Beard Foundation’s Best New Restaurant award. Working alongside Chef Heron, Watkins thrived in the high intensity kitchen environment of the Black Cat restaurant. Inspired by the wealth of high quality, fresh, local produce and seafood San Francisco had to offer, Watkins decided to bring the same elevated dining experience back home.

Returning to Texas, Watkins first worked under Chef William Koval at the French Room in the Adolphus Hotel, nationally recognized as the best restaurant in Dallas by publications such as The New York Times and Bon Appétit magazine. Here Watkins refined his culinary techniques working his way through the classic French kitchen brigade.

Making the move back to Austin, Watkins joined the culinary team at the historic Driskill Grill under the tutelage of nationally acclaimed chef David Bull. By the age of 23, Watkins earned the Chef de Cuisine position and later made an appearance on Food Network’s Iron Chef America alongside Bull where they battled celebrity chef Bobby Flay. He also accompanied Chef Bull to the James Beard House in New York City, where only the country’s most innovative and talented chefs are invited to cook and share their love of food. Watkins also helped plan and execute their offerings at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival where Bull was named one of the top 10 new chefs. In 2007, Watkins was named executive chef of the Driskill Grill and earned the establishment a consecutive five-star rating.

Chef Watkins’ passion for farm fresh, ingredient-driven food led him to open The Carillon Restaurant at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center in June of 2008. His unique approach to traditional foods and emphasis on using local, sustainable ingredients has caught the attention of food critics across the state, including the Austin American Statesman’s respected food critic, Mike Sutter. Sutter gave the restaurant a well-earned four-star rating, making The Carillon one of the highest rated restaurants in the city. In addition to running the flagship restaurant, Watkins also directs all of the hotel’s culinary programs including Gabriel’s Café, the OneTwenty5 Café, and all banquet and catering functions. As Addie Broyles of the Statesman put it, “Only a chef with Josh Watkins’ energy and excitement could pull off in a short time the opening of multiple dining venues at the new AT&T Hotel and Conference Center on the south edge of The University of Texas campus.”
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