Yves Menes, the Shoreham-American's executive chef, brought home the bacon from a recent visit to France in the form of Trophee National de Cuisine et de Patisseire. Menes edged out five other finalists (culled from 250 initial applications) in a five hour cook-off to win the award sponsored by the Academie Culinaire de France.
He thus becomes the first chef working in the United States to capture top prize in the competition, which began in 1963. His triumph caused considerable pleasure among French chefs on this side of the Atlantic because the enormouse, 70-pound trophy was donated by the New York chapter of the Academie. It is on display in the Shoreham's lobby and will remain there until next year's competition.
The chefs he bested came from Caen, Antibes and Paris.
The competition is conducted under strict rules. The initial eliminations are made by committee that considers written recipes. The six finalists then assemble at noon at the appointed day (it was May 2 this year) and assemble their creations from raw ingredients. Two panels of judges - one for pastry and one for meat - taste and appraise each chef's work.
The meat dish must be an aiguillette de boeuf (top rump roast) with three garnishes. The pastry must be a form of crepes and Grand Marnier.
Menes recreated his recipes for a press luncheon, held - appropriately enough - in the Shoreham's kitchen on Tuesday. The beef, a most elegant pot roast, was larded and marinated in brandy, sherry, white wine, aromatic vegetables and herbs. It is then braised with the addition of an ox-tail, tomatoes and veal feet. it is then sliced and stuffed with a mixture of vegetables, wild rice and goose liver; rebuilt and glazed with its natural sauce.
The garnitures were timbales of sweetbread and kidney enclosed by pearl-sized rounds of carrot and turnip; stuffed zucchini boats topped with morels, stuffed in turn with quenelle and goose liver; and puff pastry half-moons filled with a ragout of truffles, veal feet and ox-tail.
Nothing else was needed to complete the course. A burgundy, a 1973 Pommard, was served with it.
The dessert would also be a test for the home cook.
Menes inspiration was to stuff the crepes with a frozen avocado souffle. The avocados has to be curshed through a nylon sieve as metal would darken them. They were combined with egg yolks, sugar syrup, egg whites and whipped cream, piped through a pastry tube and frozen. A sabayon sauce was made from egg yolks, sugar syrup and Grand Marnier. Egg white were whipped until firm and mixed with a reserved portion of the souffle mixture. At the last moment, the crepes (also made with Grand Marnier) were wrapped about the chopped nuts and placed with egg whites and chopped nuts and placed under a broiler to brown (over ice, to keep the frozen souffle from melting) and served with the warm sabayon.
The press, presented with a contrast of hot and cold and a delicate flavor that - perhaps because of the color - seemed reminiscent of pistachio, was suitably impressed. The wine, intended to further the impression, was a champagne, Dom Perignon, 1969.
Freed from his stove, Chef Menes bobbed and weaved about the table, answering questions about the competition and his career. Now 44, he came to the Shoreham last August from the Playboy Club and Towers in Chicago. Earlier he had commanded the kitchens of Maxim's in Chicago and the Ritz-Carlton in Boston. He has had 29 years in the Kitchen, 21 of them as a chef and belongs to more than a dozen professional groups, ranging from the Societe des Cuisinieres de Paris to the Montgomery Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol.
He accepted a toast by clicking champagne glasses with everyone, then unconsciously offered further proof of his versatility in the kitchen - as he talked, he clean away the empty dessert plates to make room for coffee.
The complete chef is now complete with a gold medal and a smaller version of the grand trophy that is his to keep.