Pulaski Technical College Foundation presented Diamond Chef Arkansas at the Wally Allen Ballroom at the Statehouse Convention Center June 8, as two of Arkansas' finest culinarians competed for the title of Diamond Chef.
510 people attended the event, which raised $125,000 for Pulaski Technical College and the PTC Arkansas Culinary School.
Chef Daniel Capello, executive chef at the Chenal Country Club, competed against Chef Jason Knapp, chef and manager at the Pulaski Technical College Big Rock Bistro. Both were assisted by two sous chefs: Capello's team included Matt Cooper and Robert Henthorne, while Knapp was assisted by Brandon Douglas and Shane Henderson.
The contest followed the format of the popular Iron Chef television series. Each chef had 60 minutes to prepare three dishes, and each dish had to utilize a surprise ingredient announced just before the competition.
This year's surprise: octopus.
Local leaders in the hospitality industry judged the chefs on plate presentations, creativity and taste. The judges were Jim Montgomery, State Training Director and Special Events Manager for Glazer's Distributing; Chef Mary Beth Ringgold, owner of Cajun's Wharf, Copper Grill and Caper's restaurants; and Chef Don Bingham, catering guru and former chef for the Arkansas Governor's Mansion. Andre Poirot, director of all food operations for The Peabody Little Rock served as technical judge, and kept an eye out for conscientious sanitation practices.
Chef Capello served a first course of octopus and foie gras saté served on a charcoal grill with peanut sauce and marinated onion-cucumber salad. The second course consisted of a spicy baby octopus roll in avocado with Asian vegetable salad, wasabi, pickled ginger and soy reduction. His finale was truffle-poached octopus on a mushroom tart with ratatouille, truffle sauce, herb salad and fried baby octopus.
Chef Knapp offered a brunch-themed first course of octopus ceviche three ways: bloody Mary marinated octopus served with a vodka and tomato puree, citrus jalapeño octopus served with lox, English muffin and sauce hollandaise, and champagne octopus served with bacon, French scrambled eggs with chives, toast and caviar. The lunch-themed second course was an octopus salad sandwich roll with homemade aioli and avocado paired with a salad of micro-greens dressed in citrus paprika vinaigrette topping a marinated fried baby octopus. The third "dinner" course featured braised octopus with seared scallops, fresh ravioli of exotic mushroom with Frere Jacque cream and chive-infused oil.
While the judges gave high marks to both teams, the winner and reigning Diamond Chef Arkansas 2010 champion was Chef Daniel Capello.
About Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School
Qualified professional chefs are vital to the hospitality industry, one of the fastest growing in the world. This dynamic field combines creativity and passion with business skills, commitment to service and competitive drive. Many opportunities await those who choose to make their careers in this exciting arena, and the Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School is here to help people embark on that career journey.
The PTC Arkansas Culinary School is a world-class training center with highly skilled faculty and staff who are committed to providing the comprehensive and challenging hands-on experience needed to be prepared for a wide variety of exciting positions in the culinary field. Degrees offered include Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts, Associate of Applied Science in Hospitality Management, and technical certificates offered include Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry, Wine and Spirits Studies, as well as an apprenticeship program certified by the central Arkansas chapter of the American Culinary Federation.
In spring, 2010, the Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School received accreditation from the American Culinary Federation and the Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration. Graduates will now enter the workforce with the most widely recognized culinary and hospitality credentials in the nation.