ACF CULINARY TEAM USA
Behind the Scenes at Team Practice
By George Gonzalez, an executive chef at Sodexo, Franklin, Tenn., who helps at team
practices and competitions.
DAY 1 Team members travel with luggage,
black totes on wheels, boxes and coolers.
Sometimes, small boxes are hand-carried
and never left out of sight, because all those
hours of intricate work can be destroyed in
a second. One can only hope that everything
will make it to its destination, not just in time,
but also intact.
Fortunately, volunteers from Johnson &
Wales University help us once we arrive at
the airport. Getting team members to the
school usually takes several trips, not just
because of different arrival times, but also
because of the amount of equipment.
At the Villeroy & Boch Culinary World Cup
2010 in Luxembourg, team members,
l. to r., James “Kevin” Storm, CEC, CCA,
AAC, Joseph Leonardi, CEC, and Timothy
Bucci, CEC, CCE, CHE, work on dishes.
to ask about work and personal life. The
team is more than just a group of chefs—it’s
Back to the kitchens. Glazing stations are set
up, and the cold-food displays start to take
shape and come together. At about 8 p.m.,
ACF Culinary Team USA manager Steve
Jilleba, CMC, CCE, AAC, gathers the team one
more time before members depart for dinner.
He shares his impressions from the day and
makes sure everyone is comfortable with the
program. He also asks and answers questions.
DAY 2 The next morning, everyone is up and
in the hotel lobby by 6 a.m., ready to go. After a
quick breakfast, the chefs go back to work in
the kitchens to meet the noon deadline, when
all food must be displayed for the coaches.
sautéing, broiling and baking. Team members
work together as they cook and share
different parts of a dish. The aromas in the
kitchen are incredible.
Close to 7 p.m., the dishes are presented to
the coaches for tasting and evaluation. The
focus is on developing flavor profiles that
the team will carry with them to the 2012
Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung in
Dinner, or, if you are too tired, pizza and a
beer. Then, back to the hotel to pack for
departure the next day. One final review
meeting the next morning, then everyone
heads back home where the practice
continues with individual fine-tuning of
skills and dishes.
Once in the kitchen, the chefs begin
unpacking and assessing travel damages.
The workstations are set up and refrigeration
space divided. From that moment on, the pace
of the kitchen is set by ACF Culinary National
Team USA captain Joseph Leonardi, CEC. He
keeps the communication flowing to establish
timelines and food production for the day.
Coaches arrive to observe and offer input. The
chefs are always happy to see everyone, but
after a quick chat, they are back on task.
Food critique is important, and the highlight
of the day. It is a measure of progress,
and a chance to get the food reviewed
from different perspectives. The chefs
are always a bit anxious. The coaches are
respectful, but firm, and will not hesitate to
mention if the food is not up to par. They
give suggestions for improvement, and their
insight is of great value to the team.
After a quick lunch, it’s time for cleanup. All
the cold-food equipment and food is put
away, and the kitchen is transformed into a
hot kitchen. Hot-food practice changes the
pace of the kitchen from quiet and thoughtful
to a fast, loud environment as the chefs begin
Gathering at the table for a meal is always
a good opportunity to check and see where
everyone is in terms of production and find
out who needs help. This is also a good time
Be a Part of the TEAM. Be a Part of the HERITAGE. Be a Part of the JOURNEY.