As certain major life events began to fall onto my calendar, I realized they all had one thing in common: they were happening within a three-week period of one another. First, I got the opportunity to attend through work the S.Pellegrino Cooking Cup which is a cooking regatta that takes place in Venice, Italy. More to come on that in a bit. Second, I got married, had an incredible wedding and took an unforgettable honeymoon filled with lots of great food, champagne and relaxation. Third, my beautiful niece was born on July 6. This happened on my 28th birthday (yet another event) making it the best one yet. And lastly, I was promoted at work to a position I’ve been working really hard towards.
So, as you can see…life has been a little nutty. Normally people have these huge life events happen, ya know, within several years of one another. Apparently not this girl. It’s hard to wrap my head around it all, and all I can continue to do is remind myself how incredibly blessed I am! In an effort to grasp what just happened, I’m taking it to the blog. First up, the S.Pellegrino Cooking Cup!
S.Pellegrino is a client of mine, and it’s a really exciting account for a foodie to be on because the brand is very committed to the culinary world. This year was the 13th Annual Cooking Cup which is a cooking competition that takes place during a 12-mile regatta in Venice, Italy. Ten boats, each representing a different country, compete. And on each boat is a young chef cooking a meal to be judged by ten highly esteemed culinary geniuses. This year, Austin, TX Chef Paul Qui was chosen to represent the U.S. I had watched and followed Chef Paul’s career, seeing him for the first time on Bravo’s Top Chef, Texas where he took home the title. I was so excited he agreed to compete and knew he had what it took to win. My job was to accompany Chef Paul at the event, and facilitate attending media as well. I was of course thrilled when my boss told me that I was up for the trip, of course in the back of my mind panicking slightly that the event was a mere week before my wedding. But I knew I would never forgive myself to passing something up like this, this event is a foodie’s dream.
I arrived in Venice on the morning of June 13 (hello jet lag) and met up with my colleagues. The goal was to keep ourselves awake, and exploring this beautiful city and eating was the perfect way to do it! We sat down at a cute restaurant right near Piazza San Marco and I had a caprese salad that practically melted in my mouth. After exploring the city for a bit longer, we headed back to the hotel to kick off the weekend with a dinner for the young chefs. What the Italians dubbed as “a casual dinner”, ended up being a five course meal. If I could remember exactly what I ate I would tell you, but here is just a glimpse of it. And let me just preface this all by saying that yes, I realized I had a wedding dress to fit in in one week but OH WELL. Again, I would have never forgiven myself if I held myself back from the gorgeous food put in front of me throughout the whole weekend.
Course 1: FishCourse 2: Cured meats.
That white piece there is straight lard. Yes, I ate it. When in Rome right?! Course 3: Linguine with mussels and clams. Finished the whole plate. “They can just let my wedding dress out right?!”
Course 4: Fried octopus and vegetables. And FINALLY, course 5: Tiramisu that was to die for. And this is how you know the Italians do it right. The next morning at breakfast I asked for eggs with some bacon. This is what I got:The next night, Friday, was the Young Chef of the Year Dinner. All of the young chefs spent the whole day in the kitchen preparing a signature meal that would be served to 160 guests and esteemed jurors. The dinner also served as the opening ceremonies for the competition. There’s Chef Paul Qui there all the way on the right. After the ceremony the chefs took to their booths, to serve up their signature dishes. Chef Paul served cured local mackerel with compressed tomato seeds, tomato dashi, candied olives, and basil that I still think about to this day. Although I tried the dishes of the other nine chefs, his was BY FAR (and yes I put my bias aside) the best. The balance and complexity of flavors was like nothing I’d ever tasted. One bite was really all you needed. Of course I went back for seconds. Oops.
It was a true honor to be in the presence of all of the accomplished young chefs. They presented and spoke about their food with so much pride and passion, you couldn’t help but feel inspired by them.
The next day, Saturday, was the actual Cooking Cup. We were picked up at 7:30am by water taxi at the hotel and headed directly to the Rialto Market, which is where the chefs were to buy ingredients they wanted to cook with on the boat that day.
Here is a great shot of my colleague, Taylor, Chef Paul’s fiance and manager, Deana and Chef Paul headed to the market!
Once the chefs obtained their ingredients, they boarded their respective boats and the regatta commenced! I was in a follow boat with Deana and members of the media. So much fun!Go team USA!! Chef Paul is down below deck cooking.
Finally, the regatta concluded and the chefs were asked one by one to come aboard the juror boat and present their dishes. Although we weren’t technically supposed to, we snuck on to the juror’s boat so we can see them all trying the food in action! Some of the judges included Italian Chef Massimo Bottura, French Chef Bruno Oger, and Australian Chef Richard Ousby who won the competition last year.
Chef Paul prepared chawan mushi, an egg custard steamed in a prosciutto-rind dashi with langoustines, local peas, and ovoli mushrooms and a salsa of white peaches, coriander, and tomatoes. Unfortunately the chefs just made enough for the jurors to eat, and so I just got a picture of it. (It’s the one in the white mug). But I can only imagine how fantastic it was!
That evening, we headed to La Fenice Theatre for the gala dinner that would announce the winners of the competition and conclude the weekend. The theatre completely took my breath away, I still to this day cannot believe I ate a meal there.
They served pasta, veal (that I forgot to get a picture of) and a really delicious dessert. I’ll admit I wasn’t paying as close attention to the food that night as I normally do, my excitement over whether or not Chef Paul won the competition took over me.
Once the meal concluded, the winners of the competition were announced. The winner of the 2013 S.Pellegrino Cooking Cup goes to….drum roll please….U.S. Chef Paul Qui!!! It was such a thrilling moment that I will never forget. I would remiss not to mention that despite all of his success, Chef Paul is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Super talented and dedicated to his craft I was really honored to have worked with him and his fiance. Even though his restaurant, qui, was opening that following week, he still took the time to come and participate in this event which we will forever be grateful for! And the fact that he won…is really just icing on the cake. Very well deserved. So naturally, we all took the enormous bottles of champagne he had won back to the hotel, put them on ice, and celebrated. My incredibly talented colleagues put together this video which captured the event and Chef Paul’s weekend adventures.
The next morning I left Venice completely overwhelmed by what I had just experienced and feeling very lucky I had the opportunity to go. But of course I knew I was off to another amazing adventure…marriage! More to come on that next.