Check Out the Winners of the ACFEF’s Gingerbread House Competition

by Heather Henderson

Last month, the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation (ACFEF) and William Racin, CEPC®, ACF’s 2018 Pastry Chef of the Year, held the inaugural Gingerbread House Challenge, inviting teams of students from accredited Baking & Pastry Arts programs around the country to battle for the best gingerbread house. This year’s theme was “Winter Wonderland”.

After careful review of many beautiful submissions, two winning teams were chosen, each receiving a prize of $250 towards their Baking and Pastry programs! 

The Winter Wonderland Village built by students from Lebanon County Career and Technology Center was the secondary school winner and the model of the Seattle Children’s Hospital built by students from The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Seattle was the post-secondary winner. 


Lebanon County Career and Technology Center

The village built by the Lebanon County students consists of 20 houses and a church, totaling over 200 pounds of gingerbread and 100 pounds of royal icing.


Lebanon County Career and Technology Center

Lebanon County Career and Technology Center Gingerbread Recipe
2 lbs. Sugar
6 lbs. Honey
14 oz. Sweetex
9 lbs. bread flour
1/2 oz. ginger
2 oz. cinnamon
4 oz. baking powder
8 eggs
2 oz. water

The students made this recipe five times to have enough gingerbread to build their whole village!


Lebanon County Career and Technology Center

The team from the Art Institute of Seattle took 38 hours to complete their gingerbread hospital, on which they put their own winter wonderland twist.


The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Seattle

Unlike the real thing, their gingerbread hospital has an open roof that reveals a Christmas party happening inside the building.

The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Seattle

The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Seattle Gingerbread Recipe
2 c. corn syrup
1½ c. brown sugar
1 ¼ c. butter
9 c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt

Along with royal icing made of egg whites and powdered sugar.

The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Seattle

Congratulations to the winners! We are already looking forward to next year’s competition!

Is this Stuffing or Dressing?

By Ana Kinkaid, editor of the culinary magazine CONNECT

Stuffing or Dressing? That is the question which often rages every Thanksgiving as chefs plan their printed menus. The correct answer, actually, depends on where their restaurant is located.

From a culinary point of view, “stuffing” is what is cooked inside the turkey because, well, it is “stuffed inside.” Makes sense, no? “Dressing” refers to the savory mixture that is cooked outside the turkey, “dressing” up or enhancing the serving platter.

From a regional viewpoint, north of the Mason-Dixon Line, “stuffing” is called stuffing. That’s because “stuffing” is an old British word, dating back to at least 1538. Its use in the northern part of the United States still reflects the English heritage of America’s early settlers.

South of the Mason-Dixon Line, stuffing is generally called “dressing.” This shift in word choice occurred because holiday dining in the South was historically centered around the great rural plantations and elegant townhouses of Charleston, Atlanta and New Orleans.

There, with the help of skilled black slaves in the kitchen, dining was a far more formal affair than in the rural farms of the North. The baronial Scottish heritage of many of the wealthy white families dictated that the turkey be elaborately “dressed” with stuffing arranged outside the bird, hence the word “dressing.”

After the Civil War, many former kitchen slaves left the South and found first-time paid employment in the kitchens of Northern hotels and in the dining cars of the Pullman trains heading west. As a result, the use of the word “dressing” moved out of the South and spread across the nation, mingling with the local use of the word “stuffing.” Today it’s basically a personal word choice as both words are generally interchangeable to modern diners.

As to what is the best recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing/dressing, however, has remained largely a regional decision. In the North, a bread stuffing made with onions, celery, thyme and sage is the norm while in the Carolinas a rice dressing is the more traditional choice.

Cornbread dressing is a Deep South favorite, with diced ham, country bacon or smoked sausage added. During the Victorian era, both New England and Louisiana cooks favored oysters mixed into the stuffing/dressing. Today this tradition is being revived as both areas are working hard to restore their over-harvested oyster beds.

In Chicago and surrounding parts of the Midwest, where there are large Eastern European communities, rye or other heavy Bohemian-style breads are often used to make a heartier but great tasting stuffing. Meanwhile in California, creative cooks use sourdough bread from San Francisco’s famed Fisherman’s Wharf as the basis for their stuffing/dressing mixed with other innovative ingredients such as artichokes. However in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, a corn-based tamale stuffing made with pulled pork, red chilies and rich raisins is a holiday must.

So this Thanksgiving, you can correctly add any of these amazing stuffings/dressings to your menu. Just remember to stir in “diversity” and “mutual respect” to enhance the feast and strengthen the future of the world.

7 classic New Orleans dishes with fascinating histories

By Ana Kinkaid, editor of the culinary magazine CONNECT

Another fabulous ACF National Convention and Show is behind us, this time in la Belle New Orleans. By all accounts, this year’s events were both inspiring and informative, not to mention the bonus of enjoying New Orleans’ legendary cuisine. Just consider the historic cuisine that attending chefs had a chance to savor…

Red Beans and Rice
This simple but classic New Orleans dish came from the nearby Caribbean islands of Haiti and Cuba. Traditionally the dish was served on Monday or Wash Day, because that was the day when the laundry was done. In the days before washing machines, massive amounts of water had to be hand-heated over wood fires, the clothes scrubbed on washboards, rinsed and hung out to dry. This day-long task precluded any elaborate dinners being prepared, so slow cooking red beans over steamed long-grained rice was the perfect evening meal. New Orleans restaurants still offer this dish to diners on Monday.

Gumbo Z’herbes
Gumbo z’herbes is a unique green gumbo, seldom seen outside of New Orleans. It’s made with an assortment of fresh vegetables such as mustard greens, collards, watercress, and spinach. Over the years, chefs have enriched the gumbo with a small piece of sausage or veal. Originally created by slaves brought from West Africa, it’s a Creole dish traditionally served on Holy Thursday, just before the beginning of Lent by both the Spanish and French in New Orleans for over two hundred years. Today one of the best bowls of Gumbo z’herbes is served at Dooky Chase’s famed restaurant.

Shrimp Po’ Boy
In New Orleans culinary culture there is one sandwich favored above all others and that is the po’ boy. Like many of New Orleans’ famous dishes its heritage is tied to the city’s unique history. In 1929 the streetcar motormen and conductors of New Orleans went on strike for better wages. The owners of Martin Brothers’ Coffee Stand and Restaurant in the French Market, who were former streetcar drivers themselves, sympathized with the workers. In an effort to support the weary strikers on the picket line, the Martin Brothers decided to feed them without charge until the strike was resolved. Oral tradition records that Bennie Martin, on seeing another tired man coming off the picket line for a sandwich, would remark, “Here comes another po’ boy.” The name stuck and the sandwich became legend.

Oyster Pan Bread Sandwich
Oysters have always been part of New Orleans cuisine since the days of its first native inhabitants. The city’s fascination with oysters is still apparent as they are a major ingredient on many restaurant menus. And why not — the nearby Gulf of Mexico produces 70% of our nation’s fresh oysters. Fried oysters are a particular favorite in the city, especially in a sandwich, but only if the bread is right. The best bread for an oyster sandwich is traditionally a thick slice of white pan bread so specialized it’s known by local chefs as an “oyster loaf”. The bread should be buttered and toasted, and when it’s topped with fresh fried oysters and a rich sauce, it’s sheer culinary heaven.

Shrimp Remoulade on a Fried Green Tomato
The city’s French heritage makes its cuisine rich in memorable sauces. Remoulade is one such sauce, but one with a definite Big Easy twist. While the classic French version is white, the New Orleans version is colored a pale red orange due to the addition of chili powder and mustard. One application that’s been a popular dish for over 25 years is a warm grilled green tomato topped with crisp cold shrimp and chilled remoulade sauce. Truly a memorable and tasty combination.

Jambalaya
It’s impossible to experience New Orleans cuisine without savoring jambalaya. Just be sure to be aware there are two versions — one Creole and one Cajun. Both versions involve rice cooked in a rich tomato sauce with an assortment of meats added, but that’s where the differences begin. Chefs favoring rural Cajun cuisine generally prefer to add smoked andouille pork sausage and/or crawfish to their jambalaya. Urban focused Creole chefs traditionally add tasso ham and/or shrimp. Either way, the flavor is pure New Orleans!

Yaka Mein
When New Orleans’ soldiers returned home after the Korean War in 1953, they brought home with them an affection for a salty Korean beef noodle soup known today as Yaka Mein. A beloved meal after a long night out, the soup is also known by the nickname “Old Sober.” Today, New Orleans’ creative chefs have enhanced it with a variety to additional toppings including green onions and a sliced boiled egg. Plain or garnished, Yaka Mein is yet another addition to the wonder of New Orleans’ remarkable cuisine.

Restaurants are closing the gap between farm and table

by Courtnee James

Urban cultivator in the kitchen

Each year the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) What’s Hot Culinary Forecast predicts food and menu trends for the coming year. In the most recent survey, “hyper-local” sourcing, such as restaurant gardens, claimed the number one spot as the hottest culinary concept trend for 2018. We spoke with a few restaurateurs to see what all the buzz is about.

“It feels good to be able to tell our customers that we know exactly what they are eating,” says ACF member chef Brandon LaVielle, and co-owner of Lavish Roots, a catering company based in Washington. LaVielle’s catering company doesn’t yet have the space to house an on-site garden, so his team sources micro greens from a local farmer.

Lavish Roots’ relationship with their micro greens farmer is what embodies the farm-to-table movement: restaurants having a close relationship with the grower of harvests served within their establishments. This type of business model works both ways. It allows restaurants to use the idea of local sourcing in promotion and it helps attract patrons looking for fresh ingredients.

“Some people are calling it a trend, I think it’s a sign of the times changing with people eating healthier,” says LaVielle. “It’s important that we know what we’re getting — what we’re putting in our bodies and our clients’ bodies.”

Some restaurants are taking things even further and adopting hyper-local gardening to not only provide their customers with fresh ingredients but to also reduce their carbon footprint. Take The Perennial in San Francisco, for example. The restaurant features an aquaponic greenhouse where food scraps are fed to worms and larvae that are in turn fed to fish that then fertilize the vegetables used at the restaurant. (Take a breath, that was a lot.) Owner Anthony Myint says it’s all about combating climate change, eating responsibly grown food, and recycling. “You can’t get fresher [ingredients],” he says.

Myint says they harvest about once or twice a week but oftentimes they just snip a bunch of herbs and greens right before dinner service. While it’s sustainable to be able to include fresh ingredients, Myint agrees that it takes quite a bit of extra work.

Chef Neil Ferguson of American Seasons in Nantucket, Massachusetts enjoys the extra work. “I find gardening to be very zen-like and calming,” he says. “It’s also very inspirational. As you see things come into fruition, you can add them to your menu.”

Read the full story in the Summer 2018 edition of Sizzle, ACF’s digital publication for culinary students.

Courtnee James is a writer and editor based in Jacksonville, Florida.

Sisig is having a moment

by Jocelyn Tolbert

pork sisig and sinigang, filipino cuisine

The original version of sisig, as described in a 1732 dictionary, was a green papaya salad served with salt, pepper, garlic and vinegar. The version we know today is markedly different.

“It’s a traditional Filipino dish that has a lot of sour and bitter notes. It’s made from the leftover head after roasting a whole pig,” says Chef Eric Ernest, CEC, CCA, Executive Chef, USC Hospitality. “Sometimes they’ll put in the liver, belly snout, ears or cheeks … then it’s chopped up with calamansi — that’s a Filipino lime — and there’s egg and onion.”

“In America there are a lot of cuisines we’ve already had or adapted to the point of bastardization,” Ernest says. But Filipino food isn’t yet as ubiquitous here as the American versions of Italian or Chinese food, and as authenticity gains in popularity in the U.S., the demand for dishes like sisig has grown, too.

“It fits into the trends of creativity, international, wholesome flavors and whole animal butchery,” he says. “It’s the perfect storm for Filipino cuisine.”

Ernest gives a talk on sisig in New Orleans during Cook. Craft. Create. ACF National Convention and Show on July 16. Follow @acfchefs on Facebook for all the latest updates from Convention.