PAUL SMITHS - After prevailing in a regional cooking competition in New York City on Jan. 23, a Paul Smith's College student has earned the chance to face off against some of the best culinary students in North America.
Senior Linnea Shumway, of Canandaigua, took top honors from a panel of top-ranked chefs in the Almost Famous Chef Competition, presented by the sparkling natural mineral water company S. Pellegrino. Shumway bested seven other competitors from Northeast colleges. She will go on to compete against nine other regional winners in Napa Valley, Calif., in March.
"The win was unbelievable," said Shumway, who is majoring in culinary arts and service management. "It hasn't really set in yet, but I'm excited to show the final judges in Napa that a simple dish can be the very best."
Paul Smith’s College senior Linnea Shumway, center, of Canandaigua, takes top honors in a New York City cooking competition.
(Photo courtesy of Paul Smith's College)
Shumway prepared her signature dish, chicken with mirepoix (a mixture of chopped carrots, celery and onions) and mushroom. She and her competitors had two-and-a-half hours to prep and cook their dishes before presenting them to the panel of judges.
"I had to answer a lot of questions before I presented the food," she said. "The judges were happy to know that even though I am a vegan outside of the kitchen, I am willing to try everything in the kitchen."
Shumway traveled to the competition with Chef Kevin McCarthy and another Paul Smith's student, senior Kelsey Jones, who was there as an alternate. They worked together with Paul Smith's College Chef Alec Abt for months to get the recipe just right. Their goal with this dish was to take something basic - in this case, the ingredients for chicken stock - and turn it into an upscale dish.
McCarthy, who was one of Shumway's mentors on the project, said her technique was the key to her victory. He was taken aback by the win.
"I went in with no expectations," said McCarthy, who is a member of Paul Smith's culinary faculty. "I was one of the observers in the kitchen and I got to hear the critique of her. It was like, 'Whoa! She has a real shot here.' When she won, I was choking back tears."
This is the first time Paul Smith's has competed in the contest, which is in its 11th year. Shumway competed against fellow culinary students from several institutions, including the Culinary Institute of America and the Institute of Culinary Education.
The tasting and comprehensive evaluation from the judging panel took place during a reception for local media, chefs and invited guests. The judging panel was composed of some the best chefs in North America: Chef Jean Francois of Daniel Restaurant; Chef Matt Storch of Match; Chef Jason Weiner of Almond; Chef Laurent Tourondel of BLT; and Chef Missy Robbins of A Voce.
The winner of the national event, which takes place from March 8-10, could earn an apprenticeship with one of these judges as well as $20,000 in prize money.