Last week, ICE student Sonali Ruder won the Chefs of Grey Poupon competition with her Pan Roasted Lamb Loin with Celery Root, Apple and Dijon Puree, Mustard Greens, Grey Poupon Glazed Carrots, Pomegranate Jus and Black Truffle Mustard Mushroom Crisp. We are so proud of Sonali that we wanted to give her a chance to tell us some more about the competition in her own words.

What was the day of the competition like?
We had a lot of time in the morning to make sure we had all of our ingredients and orient ourselves in the kitchen. It was actually quite small, so I had to come up with a game plan on how to best use the space. I was getting more and more nervous, but Chef Instructor James Briscione helped me to develop a strategy.

How did you decide what to make for the mystery basket part of the competition?
As soon as I walked into the kitchen, they told me that I had to use the mystery ingredients to make either a health and wellness dish or a gourmet sandwich. I found out what the ingredients were Miracle Whip, Kraft BBQ sauce, pumpernickel bread, Planters peanuts and black garlic. The pantry had tons of meats, vegetables and fruits, but that made it harder because there was so much to choose from. I saw a container of really nice crabmeat so I decided to stick with something familiar and make a sandwich using my crab cake recipe.

We had to use at least two of the mystery ingredients. I had never even seen black garlic before. To me, it tasted similar to tamarind. I ended up using it twice in my dish (in the crab cake and in an aioli), then mixing Miracle Whip into my crab cake and using toasted pumpernickel bread to make the sandwich. I added an avocado and radish salsa at the last minute to give it a little crunch.

What was it like cooking in a short time frame?
I didn’t get a chance to taste the other students’ dishes, but I know that mine was pretty involved and it was stressful trying to get everything done. I only had five minutes left when it was time to plate my dishes. Chef James and I did four training sessions where he would time me. We came up with lots of helpful ways to save time, like keeping my pot closer to me when I was chopping stuff to put in.

How did it feel to win?
It was great! They announced the winners in reverse order, so there was a lot of tension right before they said that I had won. It was so nice to be able to relax and enjoy myself. I loved the giant check for $20,000. I couldn’t bring it back on the plane with me, so I decided to ship it, but they didn’t have a box big enough for it! We had to tape two boxes together to make it work.

Sonali is the second ICE student to win this competition in as many years. We know she will accomplish great things in the future!

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