Well today started my official involvement with WACS Congress. So to get in the right frame of mind, I went to the renowed Spa annexed to my hotel. At 6:30 am it was already quite busy with buisness men and seniors washing, bathing and steaming themselves. I went from a warm bath to a hot bath to a sauna to a cold bath, finally finishing off with ice cold fountains. BRRR yet WONDERFUL. Invigorating to say the least. Deajeon by the way is famous for their hot springs. After a hearty breakfast I prepared myself for my upcoming tasks.
My role with WACS is two-fold. The first is to brief the 7 finalists with their wine list. As previously mentioned, the Global Chefs Challenge is WACS equivalent to Germany’s World Culinary Olympics. To summarize, the challenge is the result of two years of competitions with more than 600 local selections, 42 national championships, to finally finish with the 7 chefs to dispute the biannual Global Chef Challenge Title as Top Chef! Wow, these chefs are good!
Today I will brief the Global Chefs finalists as to their selection of wines that they can use. This will include a “small” chat (for the people who know me “small”, “little”, “brief” are not words in my vocabulary when I have to talk about wine) followed by a tasting of all 10 wines.
The list is as follows:
I also have the honour of being the principal judge for the wine and food component for this outstanding competition which will occur on May 04. There will be 8 food judges who will judge on kitchen preparation, waste management, plating, presentation and of course taste. I will be on another table focusing my attention on the actual selection of wine used to match the food as well as what I call “flow” or the logic in sequential choosing. 20 points on actual match and 5 points for flow. As there will be 4 dishes presented by each finalist, their total will be out of 100. I will certainly go into a lot more detail just before the competition.
As for my second role here, I will be presenting a lecture on the joys and challenges of wine & food pairing to the Young Chefs Forum to about 100 young chefs from around the world on Saturday moring. As everyone realizes, these young and talented chefs represent some of the best the future will offer, so to hopefully inspire them to look at wine with a new approach and new understanding will make wine look no longer good but great!
As the afternoon fast approached, I arrived at the DCC (Daejeon Convention Centre) with a few other chefs to meet Esther, my guide and organizer for my briefing and tasting. The Congress is actually an enormous set-up. Intermingled with it are other events associated with WACS (Korean Food Festival, Korea Culinary Competition). So to find Esther in a maze of booths being constructed, meetings rooms filled with chefs from around the world, and overall construction for Tuesday’s grand opening was to say in the least daunting!
So when I did find her I immediately went to see how my wines were faring (white and dessert wine in the fridge, reds ready to be opened). Luckily no decating was necessary. I set up the room for my presentation and then headed off to the WACS Village (their official Trade Show) in construction mode.
At 6:00pm, Rick Stephen (in charge of the Congress) spoke to both competion finalists (the Hans Bueschkens Competition for the Young Chefs and the Global Chefs Callenge for the more senior chefs) explaining the rules and regulations for both. The Young Chefs have 3 dishes to present to their judges while the Global will have 4 dishes (mushroom, halibut, kobe beef and strawberries).
Then they shifted rooms to come and have a glass (or serveral) of wine with yours truely. Luckily for me everyone understood English except 1 team. Oh my, I was in trouble. But no panic as I quickly changed into my international persona and started speaking Italian. The relief of the Italian team was amazing and rather grateful. So in 90 minutes instead of 60 minutes(hey, that wasn’t bad!) we chatted about the characteristics of the wines and possibilties of pairing. While I know the main ingredient in each dish (previously mentioned) I certainly do not know about the specifics and neither do the judges until their menus are released on the day of the competition.
The briefing ended, the chefs went to inspect the kitchens and we finally headed back to our hotel about 10:00pm.
Hey, how about some food! I certainly had a full breakfast but nothing since. Time to refuel was necessary. But try to find a food place opened after 9pm. Good luck! I imagine Spanish tourists visiting Korea. They would all die of hunger! The hotel restaurant was closed but the bar was opened. Liquid dinner, you say? Well, thought about it, really thought about it, but I certainly needed something more substantial. So with Mark, another chef official (also from Singapore working closely with Rick) we discovered a bar/eatery not too far from our hotel. Everything was written in Korean but luckily they had pictures. I chose some chicken wings/thighs/legs with a honey mustard sauce and when it arrived we both looked at my dish rather curiously as on the plate with the greasy deep fried chicken parts was a small bowl consisting of 1 cherry tomatoe sliced in two and 1 banana thickly sliced. Banana with deep fried chicken. Out of box thinkers these Koreans!
With some fuel in us and of course a few beers, we trotted back to our hotel rooms for a brief sleep as I needed to get up by 5 to finish this article and get ready to scoot off to the DCC and check out Tuesday events