JJC culinary instructor competing at World Pastry Cup
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News June 13, 2012 2:10PM
Chef Andrew Chlebana, a Joliet Junior College culinary arts pastry instructor and certified executive pastry chef, poses with the chocolate sculpture that earned him a place on the United States team, which will compete at the World Pastry Cup in France.
Updated: July 15, 2012 6:02AM
When chef Andrew Chlebana, a Joliet Junior College culinary arts pastry instructor and certified executive pastry chef, competes Jan. 26-27 against 21 other teams at the World Pastry Cup in Lyon, France, it will be amid a clamor comparable to the Olympics.
“The competition is like a European soccer match,” Chlebana said. “There’s screaming, horn blowing and flag waving. People come dressed in their country’s colors. It’s a real sport over there. The good news is that international companies are starting to stream it over the Internet, so people back home can watch it if they stay up all night.”
Chlebana had dreamed of trying out for the Club Coupe du Monde U.S.A., a non-profit organization that, every two years, searches for and identifies the best culinary educators, researchers and food service professionals to form a team representing the United States at the World Pastry Cup.
In 2005, when Chlebana was working as a corporate account manager/pastry chef at Albert Uster Imports in Maryland, he had the good fortune to witness the trials, since they were held in one of its kitchens.
“I looked at the large sugar and chocolate sculptures and the type of cakes they had to make for this and I thought, ‘I could never do this. I am not at that level,’” Chlebana said.
But when Chlebana began teaching at JJC and met Chef Timothy Bucci, a 1995 JJC graduate, culinary arts instructor and one of seven chefs on the U.S. Culinary Olympic team, which will compete in October in Germany, Chlebana decided it was time to make his competition dreams come true.
“Chef Bucci got me really excited about competing,” Chlebana said. “I still have to put out a good product in a certain amount of time, but I also receive a score, which is similar to getting a grade in school. I appreciated these chances to learn and develop.”
To gain experience, Chlebana began with small competitions. Then, in 2010, Chlebana submitted a mock press conference of him tied up and stuffed inside a closet to the Food Network Challenge for an episode called “Sugar Fashion.” On Easter Sunday 2011, Chlebana took home a $10,000 prize for his winning “Kaleidoscope” dress.
Then last year, after Chlebana missed the deadline for the Chicago Restaurant Pastry Competition, he took first place at the first National Showpiece Championship. Chlebana was still in Georgia for that event when he received the invitation to try out for the Club Coupe du Monde U.S.A. He is now that team’s captain.
The theme was “Communication,” so Chlebana created a flower styled after a fountain pen with envelopes floating away and a horse representing a biomechanical Pony Express delivering email.
The bottom of the piece curved away with modernized carriage wheels that held a plated dessert.
The dessert also represented the theme through the incorporation of binary code.
“It’s hard coming up with original ideas,” Chlebana said.
“On the tasting side, I use common flavors and then put them together in a more interesting way,” he said.
Although Chlebana may not disclose what Club Coupe du Monde U.S.A is preparing for the World Pastry Cup, he did say team members practice individually and then monthly as a group. Although winning the competition would be a sweet victory, Chlebana is thrilled just to have made the club.
“It validates everything I do and it’s good for Joliet Junior College, too,” Chlebana said. “The biggest thing, to me, is that we’re representing the United States of America.”