Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Student Outing: Dallis Coffee

After our coffee tasting at Dallis Coffee Roasters, I will never view my morning coffee in quite the same way

On Tuesday, June 15, 2010, I accompanied students on a student club outing to Dallis Coffee Roasters in Ozone Park, Queens. It was an adventure well worth the trek from Manhattan! The story of Dallis Coffee Roasters starts nearly a century ago, with Abe and Morris Dallis, who used horse-drawn carts to distribute their goods and coffee—often setting out on delivery expeditions that lasted up to a week.

Although Dallis Brother's coffee started in 1913 and has supplied some of the city’s top restaurants and delis ever since, it is often an unknown name to the average person on the street. John Moore, Dallis's coffee expert and one of the few people in the United States with "Q" grader certification, explained this is because previously coffee roaster/suppliers were the 'behind the scenes guys' and, in fact, the name of a good coffee supplier was often something that restaurants kept secret—well-guarded from the competition. Today, things have taken a turn and one often sees coffee roster/supplier's names highlighted on restaurant menus. Dallis Coffee, one of the oldest and most respected coffee roaster/supplier in the United States, is adapting to this changing environment. In 2007 Dallis Brother's Coffee what purchased by Octavio, a Brazilian company with a long coffee history similar to Dallis Brothers. The combination of the two veteran companies is sure to result in an exciting melding of pasts and an exciting future for Dallis Coffee.

John Moore at the Dallis coffee making bar.

equipment in production area

tour of the facilities

Moore was a wealth of information and enthusiasm, and he told us the story of the perilous journey that coffee takes from plant to cup. The journey has so many factors that can affect the quality of what ends up in our cup. It is really quite incredible! Dallis Coffee goes to great lengths (some of them very scientific in nature) to ensure that their customers get a consistently great product. We were lucky to be walked through a traditional coffee tasting, or cupping, as it is called in the industry. We had the chance to taste coffee the way the experts do.

We did it in four steps:

  1. We intently smelled five types of ground coffee.
  2. Hot water was poured into the cups with ground coffee. The smell of the coffee is very different at this point, and we took it all in.
  3. "The breaking." We took a spoon to break the creamy layer that rose to the top of the cups when the water was added. The break allows one to smell different things yet again.
  4. The creamy layer is removed with spoons, and the coffee is slurped by spoonfuls, one after another. It's the professional way to taste coffee. Put a little coffee on your spoon and take it into your mouth very quickly trying to suck in air at the same time so that the coffee covers your entire palette. At this point, you can start to identify the various qualities of the coffee—aromas, mouthfeel, etc,
Similar to a wine tasting, we all shared the taste sensations and aromas that we experienced with the different coffees with one another(fragrance, aroma, flavor, body, finish). Descriptors such as 'citrusy, soapy, floral, chocolaty, my grandma's kitchen,' were used. You realize that the coffee has a story to tell when you taste it! You take a trip just with the taste. Each coffee has unique characteristics because of how and where it is grown and how it is handled and processed. The taste depends on where it comes from (terroir), the type, color, and quality of the beans, the way the beans are dried and roasted, and so forth.

So be careful when you buy coffee! The quality of what you start with and the type of journey that the bean takes has a tremendous effect on the taste of what you drink. Some supermarket coffee companies sell their coffee in cans and purchase solely based on low price (they don't even look at the beans). When you look at the beans they use (many sizes, many defects and foreign particle), it is shocking.

Once you understand this, it is easy to understand why the price difference between a low-quality and high-quality product is quite significant. They are very different products. What I learned is that coffee, like wine, requires care. So every time you taste a coffee, appreciate it!

Manon Barbarous is currently interning at the International Culinary Center. She attends the Université du Sud Toulon-Var, located in La Garde, France, where she is studying foreign languages and business.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hot Dog Contest: The Condiment Competition

Along with the two eating contests and a drinks competition, the annual FCI Concours de Chien Chaud was rounded out with a condiment competition. The merit in entering this particular contest is that the toppings are judge by illustrious guest chefs and other luminaries. Having the likes of Mark Ladner (Lupa and Otto, NYC) vote for your creation is a stamp of approval any student would love to have.

Meet this year's contenders:

Michelle Adams
Classic Culinary, Level One
Condiment: Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Date Sauce
What was your inspiration for the dish? I combined two of my favorite things—sweet and spicy—and rounded it out with a Greek yogurt.
From the judges' circle:
“I thought the Spicy Date Sauce was really interesting.”
—David Kuntze, Book Binder

Molly Breiling
Classic Culinary, Level Two
Condiment: Ugly Dog Relish
What was your inspiration for the dish? I really liked the application of the roasted ugly tomatoes. I plant them every year and have to fight the groundhogs to enjoy them.

Jessica Young
Classic Culinary, Level Six
As a dual competitor, Jessica placed 2nd in the Beverage Competition
Condiment: Saucy Sauce with Spicy Tamarind & Caramelized Onions
From the judges' circle:
“The Saucy Sauce is my favorite. It’s delicious!”
–Anita Low, chef/owner, Annisa, NYC

“My favorite? Definitely Saucy Sauce”
—Henry Hawk, NYC Food Film Festival

Glen Cinguina
Condiment Contest Winner!
Level 6
Condiment: Spicy Caramelized Vidalia Onion, Pineapple & Mango Relish
What was your inspiration for the dish? I wanted to do something different and creative. I wanted to make something that represents our graduating class well.
From the judges' circle:
“The Pineapple Salsa did very well. There was an interesting mix of flavors, and he took a refreshing approach to garnishing a hot dog.”
—Jim Leiken, Executive Chef, DBGB, NYC

Johnny Iuzzini, Executive Pastry Chef, Jean Georges, NYC

Anita Lo

Rachel Wingfield graduates this week(!) from the Classic Culinary Arts program. She hopes to stay in New York City to continue to build on her culinary career so she can some day teach people of all ages to feel comfortable in the kitchen. Her favorite hot dog is served any style while she's camping.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hot Dog Contest: Budding Mixologists--The Video

The drinks competition is a favorite among students and employees alike, as it's the one contest that everyone can participate in. All it takes is $2 to unlock the doors to your own tasting fun. Fruit and infused simple syrups took center stage in many of the beverages this year. I dipped my cup in all offerings and enjoyed every last drop. So, watch below to learn a little more about who the mixologist were and what inspired them in creating their beverages. —Liesel Davis

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Hot Dog Competition: The Drinks

On Thursday, June 10th, in one of the most anticipated annual events at The FCI, students, faculty, staff, and visitors came together to witness and judge the series of competitions that makes up 3rd Annual Concours de Chiens Chaud. The second floor classroom, familiar to most students as the site of orientation, HAACP lectures, and wine tastings, was the location of the Beverage Competition. This "battle for the blender," termed such by Friends of The FCI president Andy Bersh, gave current students an opportunity to try their hand at (non-alcoholic) mixology. The challenge was to concoct a beverage to accompany a hot dog, and on hand to help tasters get in the mood was a cart of complimentary hot dogs courtesy of Sabrett.

Those who wished to sample the drinks and vote could purchase a pack of stickers (appropriately stamped with a picture of a hot dog), which they could affix to the poster accompanying their favorite beverage. Students from across all levels of pastry and culinary entered the competition, and the concoctions varied from sweet to tart to sparkling to blended.

Mihir Desai, a Level Six Culinary student, came up with Ginger-Shiso-Grapefruit-ade ("because I feel like shiso is underappreciated!"). Mihir, who grew up vegetarian, says he has eaten about a half a hot dog in his life, but he thinks his drink would pair nicely with a lamb burger. The taste of the shiso did come through nicely in the drink and was a nice pairing with the sour grapefruit.

Nick Lama and Glenn Cinguina, also Level Six Culinary students, teamed up to enter the beverage and the condiment competition. Their entry in the beverage portion was a strawberry-mint lemonade, which paid tribute to a drink that Nick’s family made during his childhood. They steeped the mint leaves before infusing them into the strawberries and lemons.

From Level Three Culinary student TJ Kim, we got Green Splash, a colorful drink that blended everything green to evoke the idea of summer. He included ginger ale, lime juice, mint, and green tea. TJ suggested the drink might pair well with an alcohol such as Pimm's—yum!

Maxxe Sternbaum, a Level Two Culinary student, put a lot of thought into her drink entry: Summer Lemonut. She eagerly explained the benefits of each ingredient to tasters. She chose lemon for its alkalizing properties, honey for its antioxidants, coconut water because it's isotonic and contains electrolytes, and cucumbers because they contain high levels of magnesium. Her idea was to create a thin, cold, fresh drink that could add some nutrition to a hot dog meal. Good thinking!

The only smoothie of the day came from Jeff Weiss (Level Four Culinary), who called his concoction Berry Blast. He blended blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, kiwi, and coconut milk to create a smooth, fruity beverage. "I used to work at a coffee shop, and we served a spritzer that was half coconut milk and half seltzer. That's where I got the idea." Weiss added the berry flavors to make it his own and included kiwi for a little kick. ("I wanted something to add acidity that didn't overpower the berry flavors.")

Orange-Tamarind Fizz, the entry from Jessica Young, Level Six Culinary, (on left in photo) had a nice spicy flavor. Jessica said she chose the ingredient combination to pair with her entry in the condiment competition, a tamarind concentrate sauce. As voters walked around and sampled the drinks towards the end of voting, it looked like it would come down to the Tamarind Fizz and the Berry Blast—both entries' posters were filled with hot dog stickers, and the candidates were running low on samples.

Back in the auditorium, the votes and donations were tallied. More than $300 worth of ticket sales from the competition went toward scholarships for financially in-need FCI students! TJ Kim's Green Splash came in third place. With just one more vote, second place went to Jessica Young's Orange-Tamarind Fizz. And the winner, recipient of a Vitamix Vita Prep 3 (worth over $1,000!) was Jeff Weiss with his Berry Blast.

Although there were crowd favorites, all the drinks were worthy contenders and very tasty. Congratulations to all the competitors for their creativity!*

Sarah Johnson graduated from the Classic Culinary Arts Program in May. She hopes to work as a writer in the food industry. Her favorite condiment with hot dogs is Grey Poupon!

*Click here to watch our video interviews with more of the competitors.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sugar Fun in the Sun

Our Level Three Pastry Day class turned out a sugar sculpture piece just in time to commemorate the official first day of summer. With camping as the theme, it was an appropriate way to welcome the sunniest season of the year. Scary bears in the background, ladybugs throughout, and a heavily laden picnic table all gave interesting detail to the scene. For those of us sweating our way through summer inside in the school's kitchens, it's nice to recall those leisure days of outdoor enjoyment just beyond the pale.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hot Dog Contest: The Employees Take On Sliders

Three minutes to eat as many hot dog sliders as possible! That's what the 2010 Employee Hot Dog Eating Contest was all about. A new component to this year's Concours de Chien Chaud, employees from almost every department came to cheer on the contenders. Competition ran thick: Accounting rallied behind Yannick Guerin, while IT rooted for their very own Devindral Ramlal.

Coworkers showed their spirit: Team Yannick

Team Sabena

Team L'Ecole

Competitors line up in front of hotel pans filled with hot dog sliders.
No one finished a complete panful.

Dave Arnold, who came dressed up to fight and win, walked out as this year's champion! David Johnson came in a close second.

David Johnson, second place winner, looks
down at his unfinished dogs.

I spoke with Loïc Ney, a Frenchman interning with both Admissions and Student Services. He did not place in the top three in the end, but clearly he was relieved when the competition finished. As he told me, "he could feel the pressure."

The timed competition was indeed an exciting moment as the crowd wildly cheered on their coworkers. It was a pleasure to witness such an enthusiastic and significant event at The FCI. Everyone had fun, while coming together for a good cause!

Doreen Sia is a level one Classic Pastry Arts student, who intends on specializing in chocolate upon graduation.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hot Dog Competition: The Wrap Up

Excitement. Exhilaration. Anticipation. Downright frenzy! This only begins to describe the sight of more than a hundred culinary and pastry students, chef-instructors, FCI employees, and general supporters cheering at the 3rd Annual Concours de Chiens Chaud. Signs waved madly and deafening applause could probably be heard downstairs at L’Ecole (the school’s restaurant) as each class rooted for their level’s hot dog eater.

The competition was stiff, and the students seemed to be neck and neck as they chomped and swallowed their house-made hot dogs at breakneck speed. We saw some interesting eating techniques—separating the bun and the dog, dunking enormous hunks into water and gulping them almost whole.

In the end, though, it was the determination, superhuman eating power, and water logging technique of Level 3 culinary student Mina Ayoub that allowed him to finish first, taking home the gold. Congratulations Mina!

Sarah Kornik is a Classic Culinary Arts student graduating in July 2010. She would love to one day open an epicurean luncheonette in her hometown of Montreal. Like all good Montrealers, she can't eat a hot dog without poutine.

Making the day even more momentous were the guest chefs that came out to support the event. Just to name a few, they included: Mark Ladner (Lupa), Johnny Iuzzini (Jean Georges), Anito Lo (Annisa), Jim Leiken (DBGB), and Brad Farmerie (Public). We were also lucky to have FCI deans Jacques Torres, Alain Saillac, André Soltner, as well as many of our chef-instructor in attendance.

Most importantly, the 3rd Annual Concours de Chiens Chaud raised an impressive $7,500 in total for the Friends of the FCI scholarship fund. This needed scholarship gives financially challenged food lovers and aspiring chefs the chance to receive the education they deserve.

Thanks to everyone who organized and participated in the event for making it such a wonderful success!

Sarah Kornik is a Classic Culinary Arts student graduating in July 2010. She would love to one day open an epicurean luncheonette in her hometown of Montreal. Like all good Montrealers, she can't eat a hot dog without poutine.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Shaking up Late Night TV

Nils Norén (vice president of culinary and pastry arts) and Dave Arnold (director of culinary technology) mixed up drinks on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on Friday, June 11th on NBC. If you missed the show, you can catch up on the action here:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hot Dog Competition: Challenge of a Lifetime

On Thursday, June 10th, the French Culinary Institute hosted their third annual Hot Dog Eating Contest. The original level 1 culinary student from my class that was selected to compete was unable to do so and somehow I ended up replacing him. I'm not one to back down from a challenge, but I had a feeling I might be in a bit over my head on this one.

The rules of the game were that the challengers were to consume a 30-inch hot dog, and matching bun, in the shortest amount of time possible in order to win fortune, glory, and gift certificates. Aside from competing with my older brother for who could eat the most mashed potatoes at the family dinner table, I had never been involved with an eating competition, let alone having the hopes and dreams of my class resting on my shoulders.

After reluctantly agreeing to compete, I spent a good part of the rest of the day thinking about the competition and trying to formulate the strategy that would take me to the top. I knew that any speed eating methods that I came up with would have to be tested prior to the big day; I needed to train.

After class, I changed my clothes and headed down to Full Circle Bar in Williamsburg, a Skee-Ball bar that only serves one food item: hot dogs. According to The FCI article about the event last year, the winning participant finished the dog in less than three minutes. With that benchmark in mind, I stepped up to the bar and ordered a glass of water and five hot dogs (roughly totaling 30 inches).

With various techniques roughly planned out and the opening notes of Paul Engemann's "Push It to the Limit" going through my head, I signaled my timekeeper that I was ready to go. The next few minutes were a flurry of meat, bread, and water as I stuffed the dogs into my face as quickly as possible, eating each one differently to try and find the fastest way. I found that tearing the hot dog in half and dunking it, bun and all, in water and then chewing was the fastest way. I finished them all in what I thought was a very respectable time of 2 minutes and 47 seconds. I figured that I could take off at least 15 to 20 seconds when it came down to the competition because I wouldn't need to experiment with strategy.

The day of the competition was probably the worst possible lesson day to have before an eating competition: Potato Day. I love potatoes and tried to convince myself that the upcoming event was more about speed than volume, so as long as I just had small portions of the dishes we were working on I'd be just fine. I was unprepared for how delicious the potatoes would be and even with my classmates keeping a watchful eye on me and slapping my hands when I reached for another golden fried potato chip, I still managed to sneak more than I should have. I constantly reassured my classmates by saying "I've got this!" whenever somebody mentioned the contest.

Everyone had come together and chipped in enough money for the entry fee ($50), all of which goes to an emergency grant fund for FCI students in immediate financial need. The day went by quickly, and with my stomach a bit more full of potatoes than I would have liked, it was time to go down to the culinary theater to win this thing.

When I arrived at the theater, the room had already begun filling up with students and staff. I eventually found a few of the other competitors, and we made our way to the front where the first two rows of chairs had been covered by plastic garbage bags—a sure sign we were in the right place.

Before the student contest started, the staff had their own competition: who could eat the most mini–hot dogs in 3 minutes. Dave Arnold (director of technology), in a blue luchador mask and matching cape, won by eating around 12 1/2 hot dogs.

Employees line up at stations (pictured, from far left): Will Boze;
Christopher Papagni; Daniel Low; Yannick Guerin; Sabena Singh

Dave Arnold in mask and cape

Between the potatoes still in my stomach and watching the staff event, I wasn't looking forward to my own challenge. Fortunately there were additional delays as the winners of the condiment, beverage, and fund-raising competitions were named. By the time everyone stepped up for the main event a bit of room had cleared up in my stomach and I regained my confidence. It was go time!

Students get ready to compete.

The theater was packed, and the crowd was hungry for blood. Pods of students were cheering for the favorite hot dog gladiator as we all found our way to our eating stations, garnished with quart containers filled with water. I took my place in the back row and meditated briefly on my strategy. The hot dogs were delivered to us on long planks that hung over the counters they were placed on, I started to sweat and wonder why I was willingly doing this to myself. But before I knew it, the starting pistol belched fire, and I was grabbing fistfuls of hot dog, dunking them in water, and shoving them into my mouth. On my third or fourth tear of the dog, I choked on some of the water, sending bits of meat up my nose. It was incredibly uncomfortable, but the roar of the crowd inspired me to press on. When I was halfway through, I took a look around at my competition. To my surprise, everyone I could see had consumed roughly as much as me. It was still anybody's game, and I tried to chew even faster. I had about 8 inches left to eat and was still confident that I had a chance to win, when I heard a swell of cheering: Somebody had finished. I decided to press on as there was still a chance to come in second or third. A few more seconds passed, and two other competitors finished there dogs. I had lost, miserably. The contestant that won had finished their hot dog in less than two minutes. I never stood a chance. My hot dog remained unfinished, laying half on the plank and half in a puddle of splashed water and soggy bun bits.

The winner!

Although, I am disappointed that I didn't win, it's nice not be known as the guy that can eat faster than anybody else. It was a fantastic experience, and somehow I'll find a way to make up my poor performance to my classmates. An FCI Dairy Challenge maybe….

Jason Myers is a first level Classic Culinary Arts student, who hopes that by level six he'll have a better idea of what kind of culinary career he is going to pursue. He also believes that nothing is better on a hot dog than home fries and bacon.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hot Dog Contest: The Stiff Competition 4

Name: Joanne McGrath

Hometown: Queens, New York

Level: Two (Classic Culinary)

Ketchup, mustard, both or something a little more exotic? barbarcue sauce

What's your favorite hot dog side dish? relish or fries

Aside from the obvious and best choice, the hot dog, what would you most like to eat competitively? pizza!

Can you divulge your winning strategy for the day of the event? HAVE FUN! Expect the best result, and eat as much as possible until the finish.

Sarah Kornik is a Classic Culinary Arts student graduating in July 2010. She would love to one day open an epicurean luncheonette in her hometown of Montreal. Like all good Montrealers, she can't eat a hot dog without poutine.

Hot Dog Contest. Judge Profile: Amy Bandolik

Amy Bandolik is a tour guide for Foods of New York Tours. She is also the author of the blog Delicious Thursdays, where she explores different aspects of the food industry in New York City. Amy will be judging the condiment contest at this year’s Concours de Chien-Chaud.

Have you ever been involved in an eating competition before? As a judge, contestant, or spectator?

Nope, first time! While in the privacy of my own home, I have eaten food like it's a competition, but I've never been involved in a real eating competition, at least not one with an audience and prizes.

The FCI Hot Dog Eating Contest is divided into three competitions. If you could participate in one of them, which would you choose: the hot dog eating; the design-your-own-condiment contest, or the beverage/mixology contest?

The hot dog eating competition! I grew up in a Jewish household where we constantly encouraged each other to "Eat…. Eat…. You're getting too skinny!" [spoken with a Jewish accent].

I love watching other people eat and enjoy the pleasure of food. On our food tours, I get to realize my dream of feeding people the best of the best in New York City. The hog dog eating contest is that…on speed. The condiment contest sounds fun, too. I’d dip mine in chocolate!

Have you ever encountered any hot dog purveyors through your Foods of New York Tours? If so, do you have a favorite?

No, actually. We don't taste any hot dogs on the tours. We walk right past a place called New York Hot Dog & Coffee, which eventually closed, but we never tasted from there. My favorite hot dog is back at my childhood home in the Hamptons, perfected by my dad on our backyard grill. Add a game of pool and volleyball with the family, and you have the perfect summer day.

What's your first memory of eating a hotdog?

While growing up, my family's freezer was FULLY stocked with Hebrew National hot dogs. My older sister used to slice them into thin strips and fry them up in a pan filled with butter. They would curl up and get crispy on the outside but still juicy on the inside. I blame those late night hot dog treats for all of my additional fat cells!

How often do you eat a hot dog nowadays?

It is rare that I eat one. Although, every time I pass Papaya Dog (which is daily because it is a half a block from my apartment), I crave one. I feel like a naughty kid when I do. To this day, my favorite passed party hors d'oeuvre is a hot dog in puff pasty dough dipped in mustard. I sampled those about two weeks ago at my nephew's second birthday.

What's your favorite way to prepare hot dogs?

As I mentioned, my older sister used to slice them into thin strips and fry them up in a pan filled with butter. They would curl up and get crispy on the outside but still juicy on the inside. I was trying the Atkins diet (unsuccessfully) a few months back, and I ate hot dogs this way then.

Favorite hot dog accompaniments? Spicy wasabi mustard is great. And good old sweet Heinz is a food memory that is hard to remove from my palate of cravings.

Aside from hot dogs, what’s your favorite type of food to eat or to prepare? I love sushi, Indian cuisine, and Greek. I also enjoy eating Ben & Jerry's right out of the container with a friend on a stoop on my block on a hot summer night. Lately, I like baking, mostly because it is fun to bring treats to share at parties and for holidays.

If you had to come up with a contemporary dish involving hot dogs on the spot, any ideas?

Hot dogs tempura!

Our competitors will be eating a 30-inch hot dog and bun as fast as they can. Any tips for them?

Lean back. Relax. Lubricate.

Last year's champion guzzled down the dog in under three minutes. What do you think the winning time will be this year?

Two minutes and seventeen seconds

Sarah Johnson graduated from the Classic Culinary Arts Program in May. She hopes to work as a writer in the food industry. Her favorite condiment with hot dogs is Grey Poupon!

***Join us TODAY (Thursday, June 10th) at 3:45 p.m. in the amphitheater to see if Amy’s winning time prediction comes true!***

Hot Dog Contest: The Stiff Competition 3

Name: Lisa Gniewkowski

Staten Island, New York

Level: Three (Classic Pastry)

Ketchup, mustard, both or something a little more exotic? Definitely mustard. Spicy mustard is always good too….

What's your favorite hot dog side dish? cheese fries with bacon

Aside from the obvious and best choice, the hot dog, what would you most like to eat competitively?
I would love to eat pizza competitively, because pizza is amazing. And when I find a good pizza place, I feel like I can just eat the whole pie myself.

Can you divulge your winning strategy for the day of the event?

The only strategy I have is to break the dog down into three parts, and then go for it! Lets hope it works!

Sarah Kornik is a Classic Culinary Arts student graduating in July 2010. She would love to one day open an epicurean luncheonette in her hometown of Montreal. Like all good Montrealers, she can't eat a hot dog without poutine.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Hot Dog Contest. Judge Profile: Lauren Braun Costello

Lauren Braun Costello returns to the Concours de Chien-Chaud for the second year in a row to judge the condiment contest. A graduate of The FCI, Lauren ('03) is known as The Competent Cook. She has written two books and has been involved in all aspects of the food industry—catering, teaching, cooking classes, food styling, etc. She admits that she is a big fan of eating competitions and enjoys watching heavyweights such as Kobayashi dominate in contests on TV. If given an opportunity to participate in one of The FCI’s three contests (hot dog eating, condiment creation, or mixology), she says she would go for the condiment contest. “I would choose the condiment contest in a heartbeat! I’d love to do a tomato-mustard seed chutney with onions—marmalade of sorts.” Sounds delicious!

Costello shares an early memory of eating hot dogs on a family ski vacation to Colorado. “I was about five or six, and they gave us hot dogs every day for lunch at ski school! On about the fourth day, I got sick (they weren’t kosher). Now I only eat kosher hot dogs, and I love them!”

Nowadays, Costello mostly eats hot dogs in the summer at barbecues. She also loves a good “kosher special” at a deli (thick Knackwurst with baked beans). This hot dog connoisseur has a very specific way of preparing her hot dogs. “I always spiral cut my hot dogs and boil them in water before putting them on the grill. This makes them a lot more tender and gives them more surface area to be charred. I use celery salt (this is the very best thing in the world!) to give the dog a great edge!” And for condiments? "Fox Mustard is my favorite brand; it's really sweet, and savory."

Aside from hot dogs, Lauren loves to eat dumplings and a variety of canapés. ("I could eat hors d’oeuvres all the time!") When asked to come up with a gourmet meal involving a hot dog, she answered that a hot dog can be a gourmet meal on it’s own! "I think the notion that a hot dog is lowbrow food is outdated! Daniel Boulud’s hot dog at DBGB is the answer to that question."

Her prediction for the winning time this year? Two minutes and fifty-two seconds.

Sarah Johnson graduated from the Classic Culinary Arts Program in May. She hopes to work as a writer in the food industry. Her favorite condiment with hot dogs is Grey Poupon!

Hot Dog Contest: Chef Jurgen David

Chef-Instructor Jürgen David teaches in the Pastry Department at the school. This year, he is in charge of the beverage contest for the hot dog fund-raising event (which we are all looking forward to)! It was a pleasure getting to know a little more about him and his opinions towards the beverage contest…

What is the most interesting drink you came across at last year's hot dog beverage contest?

Two, actually. One with cucumber and one with melon.

What are your favorite kinds of drinks then?

Iced tea, orange juice, and I'm also a big fan of carbonated beverages.

So what elements do you consider make a winning beverage for the contest?

Something that goes with a hot dog, of course. Something seasonal. An original combination that is unique but not crazy. Nothing like raspberry soda!
But most important is that we all have fun!!

Doreen Sia is a level one Classic Pastry Arts student, who intends on specializing in chocolate upon graduation. She's looking forward to seeing some crazy ingredient combinations in the beverage contest.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Hot Dog Contest: The Stiff Competition 2

Name: Wesly Alcindor

Hometown: Spring Valley, New York (Rockland County)

Level: Four (Classic Culinary)

Ketchup, mustard, both or something a little more exotic? both, and sweet onion

What’s your favorite hot dog side dish? cold macaroni salad

Aside from the obvious and best choice, the hot dog, what would you most like to eat competitively? hamburgers and Jell-O

Can you divulge your winning strategy for the day of the event? I'm coming very, very hungry. I will be eating at the speed of 55 MPH, so don't blink or you will miss it. Nobody can stop me, even the police.

Sarah Kornik is a Classic Culinary Arts student graduating in July 2010. She would love to one day open an epicurean luncheonette in her hometown of Montreal. Like all good Montrealers, she can't eat a hot dog without poutine.

Hot Dog Contest: Chef Nick Meyer

Deep in the heart of The French Culinary Institute, Chef-Instructor Nicholas Meyer and his team have been creating something monstrous. A creation so massive and terrifying that only a few brave souls would dare to try and conquer it. What is this creation? It's the 30-inch hot dog for The FCI hot dog eating competition!

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Chef Nick about the hot dogs and the upcoming competition. Here's what he had to say…

How long does it take to make the hot dogs?

We could do it all in one day if we had the time and the kitchen space. The grinding was all done in one day, and the mixing actually was done that day, too. Yesterday we pumped them into casings, and then today all we had to do was rinse them and make the links, so they're all ready to go! They'll be on ice until the competition.

What goes into the making of The FCI hot dog?

There's your basic sort of ground sausages, like pork ground sausage, and a hot dog is an emulsified sausage, a very fine grind, an emulsion almost like a hollandaise. Fat and protein suspended together—so it's very crucial that you get the emulsion done right just like you would a hollandaise or a mayonaise. If you don't do it right, it could break, and you get a grainy and a greasy texture at the same time. It's really disgusting.

Beef hot dogs are made with beef and pork fat. It all has to be ground very fine, and it all has to be kept extremely cold the entire time. The meat and fat have to be almost frozen while you're grinding them to keep from melting. I have made hot dogs in the past in the Italian kitchen, which has good air conditioning, but we made the ones for this year downstairs in the main kitchen. It works down here as long as you keep the ingredients in the freezer and then pull them out right before you grind them up.

So there's a few steps. You have to grind everything and then you have to grind it again, this time very fine. Then once they are ground, you make your emulsion. You grind the meat and fat separately and then you emulsify the fat into the meat.

The funny thing about hot dogs is that actually when you make them on a small scale it's so much harder than making them on a large scale. On a large scale they have huge enormous machines that can do all these processes. Basically you pour meat and your seasonings in the top and hot dogs come out the bottom. It's funny because it's a very pedestrian sausage, but it's quite labor intensive to make.

In years past, we've had a really hard time getting it right. I've had to make them twice one year. Something went wrong down the line, and when we tried to cook a test one, it was so mushy we just had to throw them all out. I think we've got the system pretty streamlined now. This year is definitely the easiest it's ever been so far. Chef Jeff has put a lot of work into this, a lot of research and a lot of testing.

How many dogs did you make this year?

We have the competition dogs, which are 30" long, those are for the race, and we have I think 35 of those. And then for the recipe testing, you know the condiment competition, we have small tasting dogs, I didn't even count but we probably have close to a hundred, maybe more.

Are you planning on entering the competition?

I am not. I'm not a terribly fast eater. I don't know a whole lot about competitive eating, and I haven't paid attention to the Nathan's competition on Coney Island. I know there are different schools of thinking: some people eat the buns together with the dog. Kobayashi, I think, breaks the dog up—takes the dog apart. A 30-inch dog is basically like four regular, four ballpark, hot dogs. So I could definitely eat that much, but I'm not that fast.

Do you have a favorite hot dog or condiment?

I recently had a Chicago-style dog. The Chicago dog has all kinds of vegetables on it, like pickles, cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes. They call it "drag it through the garden", and it's vegged out. I know that's sort of the New York versus Chicago, and I've always lived in New York, so I've always been a ketchup, mustard, saurkraut kind of guy. But then I went to Chicago and I had a Chicago dog with the vegetables on it, and I have to say it was pretty decent. When I'm walking down the street and I'm hungry, I'll usually get a few dogs with ketchup, musturd, and 'kraut. That's my sort of traditional street meat dog. But I've got to put a little shout out to the Chicago-style dog.


Jason Myers is a first level Classic Culinary Arts student, who hopes that by level six he'll have a better idea of what kind of culinary career he is going to pursue. He also believes that nothing is better on a hot dog than home fries and bacon.

***The competition takes place this Thursday, June 10th, at 3:45 p.m. in the amphitheater.***

Friday, June 04, 2010

Hot Dog Contest: The Stiff Competition

Two-and-a-half-foot dog? "No problem," exclaims The FCI student! But don't underestimate this challenge. It takes strength, stamina, mental focus, and a serious commitment to eating to muscle through a 30-inch hot dog and raise money for a great cause at the same time. One representative from every professional level can participate in this fund-raising feast, but who will take home the title of professional hot dog eater?

Let’s get to know our hungry competitors! First up: Adam "Garbage Disposal" Kaufman

Astoria, New York

Level: Two (Classic Culinary)

Ketchup, mustard, both or something a little more exotic?
mustard. deli mustard

What's your favorite hot dog side dish?
love me some baked beans

Aside from the obvious and best choice, the hot dog, what would you most like to eat competitively?
pizza or burgers

Can you divulge your winning strategy for the day of the event?
Pray to my shrine of Takeru Kobayashi for good luck, then eat hot dogs faster than everyone else.

Sarah Kornik is a Classic Culinary Arts student graduating in July 2010. She would love to one day open an epicurean luncheonette in her hometown of Montreal. Like all good Montrealers, she can't eat a hot dog without poutine.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Hot Dog Contest. Judge Profile: Johnny Iuzzini

As executive pastry chef at Jean Georges, in New York City, Johnny Iuzzini knows desserts inside and out. But at this year's Concours de Chien-Chaud, Iuzzini's savory taste buds will be put to the test as he judges the condiment portion of the competition.

Even though he spends most of his time dealing with sweets, Iuzzini also enjoys cooking other parts of a meal. "I'm an Italian kid, so I love fresh pasta. I love to make my own pasta and roll it out…. I like really simple preparations, maybe with fresh vegetables or ricotta cheese." When asked how he might incorporate hot dogs into a dish at the restaurant, he responded (with remarkable promptness!), "I'd probably try to make something with the essence of the flavor combinations—take a hot dog [with some] ketchup and mustard, puree them in a Pacojet, and make an ice cream. I'd soak buns in milk and make a bun ice cream, then swirl the two flavors together."

As for his own hot dog history, Iuizzini's first memories of eating frankfurters come from his childhood growing up in the Catskills, in New York. ("We were always barbecuing, and my dad was always grilling.") He doesn't eat them as regularly now, but when he does, he prefers a variety from Salumeria Biellese. His favorite accompaniments? "I'm a ketchup, mustard, and sauerkraut guy."

Iuzzini remembers going to Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, in Brooklyn, New York, when he was younger, and he was also a judge at last year's Concours de Chien-Chaud. With all his experience watching contests, his advice for this year's contestants is to focus on "breathing and rhythm." He has high hopes for the eaters and expects to see some record-breaking times!

Sarah Johnson graduated from the Classic Culinary Arts Program in May. She hopes to work as a writer in the food industry. Her favorite condiment with hot dogs is Grey Poupon!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Hot Dog Contest. Judge Profile: Gregory Papalexis

As a judge for the upcoming Concours de Chien-Chaud, few people know more about hot dogs than Greg Papalexis. His grandfather Gregory, Senior was practically born into the business. When he was three years old, he lived next to a hot dog factory and above a hot dog bun factory on 115th Street in Manhattan. At the time, Gregory, Senior's father owned the two businesses, and Gregory, Senior used to play in the factories as a child. Greg comments, "One of [my grandfather's] earliest memories was getting smacked because he stole a frankfurter from the smokehouse."

Eventually, Gregory, Senior branched out on his own and founded the New York City hot dog company Sabrett in 1959. Sabrett has been maintained as a family operation ever since—in addition to Greg working for the company, his father, two uncles, and two aunts are all involved in the operations. Nowadays, the blue-and-yellow-striped umbrellas placed atop Sabrett hot dog carts are recognizable on most any New York City street corner, shading the vendors of the city's own frankfurter brand. Sabrett sells over 20 million pounds of hot dogs each year (that's 180 million franks!).

This year at The FCI hot dog contest, Greg will be a judge for the condiment competition, in which students will put forth their tastiest concoctions to accompany the hot dogs. As someone who knows a thing or two about hot dogs (he eats at least one a day), we can't think of anyone with stronger credentials! His favorite way to prepare a dog? Charred on the barbecue (he likes them well-done) and served on a Sabrett frankfurter roll with Sabrett mustard, onion, and sauerkraut on top.

When Greg's not eating hot dogs, he will "pretty much eat anything: salads, cheeseburgers,Thai food…." His advice to the contestants? "Don't waste your appetite on the roll—the real food's the hot dog!"

Sarah Johnson graduated from the Classic Culinary Arts Program in May. She hopes to work as a writer in the food industry. Her favorite condiment with hot dogs is Grey Poupon!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Concours de Chien-Chaud 2010

illustration by Roy Lichtenstein

In order to whet your appetite even further and get you even more excited for the thrilling Concours de Chien-Chaud (hot dog competition!) at The FCI on Thursday, June 10th, we have a week of profiles. So check back daily to read about a few of our illustrious judges and our competitors. Let the fun begin!