In June, six teams of young chefs and their assistants, plus three Commis competitors, faced off at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in New York City. Hosted by Chefs Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Jérôme Bocuse, founders of ment’or BKB, the event introduced the young culinary artists to a world of collaboration and competition among esteemed chefs. First place winners earned the right to stagier alongside Team USA as they prepare for and compete in the 2017 Bocuse d’Or competition in Lyon, France.
Among the Young Chefs, Vincenzo Loseto, a line cook at The NoMad in New York City, and his assistant Daniel Garcia won top prize with their Veal Pavé with Black Truffle, Sweetbread-Stuffed Morels, Snap Peas, and Asparagus.
Loseto’s fascination with food started early. “My childhood consisted of baking Christmas cookies with my mom, eating giant pasta dinners, fishing, clamming, and being yelled at by my nonna for not eating enough,” he says.
When he was 14, his brother Luciano got him a job in a local butcher shop and his oldest brother, Giovanni, introduced him to a culinary program at the vocational school. Loseto enrolled, became enamored with cooking, and ultimately graduated from The Culinary Institute of America. Along the way, he had many culinary experiences, from working on a farm in Napa Valley and cooking what was grown there to learning traditional Chinese cooking in Chengdu, China. In addition to inspiration from the many chefs he has worked with, Loseto is also inspired by the ever-changing cuisines around the world.
Mimi Chen, who works as a cook at Restaurant Daniel, also in New York City, won first place in the Commis competition. Her winning entrée was Veal Tenderloin with Oyster Mushroom and Herb Mousseline.
Chen, who says she became interested in the culinary arts during high school, participated in a C-CAP competition, which earned her a full scholarship to the International Culinary Center. (C-CAP, Careers through Culinary Arts Programs, is a curriculum-enrichment organization that links culinary teachers and students in public high schools with scholarship and career opportunities in foodservice.)
In preparation for culinary school, Chen interned for two months at Café Boulud and after graduating she was offered a position at Restaurant Daniel, where she says she continues to learn and grow as a cook. In fact, Chen tells FSR that the chefs at Restaurant Daniel helped her prepare for the competition by tasting and providing feedback as she practiced making her dish.
Chefs and instructors at the International Culinary Center were also very helpful and instrumental in getting her involved in the competition. “A lot of my chefs from school recommended that I apply for the selection process,” she says. “It showed that they all believed in me and that I would have a chance to be selected. They also helped me along the way … ordering what I needed to practice with and providing me with time and space to prepare.”
Chen says she learned a lot from the competition, explaining that, “time management became a big thing and also harmony of flavors. I wanted the dish to be seasonal, so I did research on what would be in season at the time.”
Humble and gracious, Chen said of the competition, “It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, being selected and having the opportunity to be here is enough. If I can become part of ment’or, I know more opportunities will come.”