As 2007 comes to a close and 2008 begins, I reflect on what I have been a part of this past year and find myself feeling fortunate to be where I am. Just a year ago my friend, David Ramirez and I flew to Lyon, France to commis for Team USA 2007 and today we are part of Team USA 2009.
A few months ago we participated in the national selection process in Gaithersburg, Maryland. David was chosen captain and sugar artist for the new team. Remy Funfrock was picked for degustation, and Roy Pell will work chocolate and ice. My role will be that of “alternate,” an unusual position for me and a sour pill to swallow.
After the initial disappointment of the announcement and a little soul searching, I made the decision to push as if I were a full fledged team member and help them reach the goal of becoming “World Champions.” I knew this meant I would have to work hard at every position and, potentially, not be needed for any. This would also present equipment issues. I have most of what I need for chocolate, but degustation, ice and sugar all have specialized equipment that I would have to purchase.
So, by this year’s end, whether I remain the alternate or become a team-member, I will be a stronger Pastry Chef with better skills. And as a bonus, I've been asked to share this experience with the readers of Pastry's Best Magazine through this column. Future issues will detail the planning, preparation and execution of a well laid plan on the road to the next World Championship.
The selection of the 2009 Unites States World Cup team took place at L’Académie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland on November 3 and 4.
The following pastry chefs made the team and will represent the U.S. in Lyon for the finals of the World Cup of Pastry.
David Ramirez, Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel, Orlando, Florida (Captain)
Rémy Funfrock, The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Roy Pell, The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona
Jim Mullaney, The Cloister, Sea Island, Georgia (Alternate)
The judges were Pierre Cantrel, Derek Poirier, Gilles Renusson and Anil Rohira.
The team will be coached by En-Ming Hsu and Sylvain Leroy
Until the World Cup event in January 2009, and in each of the next 5 issues, Pastry’s Best will be following the team’s progress with contributions from coach En-Ming Hsu and the reflections of team alternate Jim Mullaney.
Here we go again! It’s time for another Pastry World Cup for En-Ming Hsu!
Q. What’s your motivation?
A. The motivation for me is that each passing World Cup gives me two more years to become fluent in French so that I may return triumphant to Lyon and parle en français avec Monsieur Paillasson. Or, at least, understand the chatter during the competition!
On the pastry side, the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie has always been special for me. Having been a part of the US organization since 2001 when we won the gold medal, I have become more involved with our recent teams, working directly to support them.
Team USA 2001, my team, would not have been successful without the efforts of Chefs Stanton Ho, Donald Wressell, Jody Klocko and Keegan Gerhard. Fully understanding what it takes for a team to get ready, I want to help other chefs experience what I did: the unique spirit and atmosphere of this extraordinary event … and to come home with the gold.
Q. What are the objectives for this year’s team?
A. The main objective is to win the gold medal. To get there, the team must work hard to stay on schedule, be innovative, and focus on the small details that make a difference in their performance. It’s difficult to work continuously for over a year on the same subject. They have to stay on track and weather through times that can seem very frustrating.
Q. How did the word get out about potential prospects for the team?
A. Applications for the team selection were distributed through our sponsors. Finalists were invited to compete at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Q. Explain the selection process and how the finalists were chosen.
A. The team selection process has changed from year to year. Most of the selections in the past have involved a competition that mimicked the requirements of the actual Coupe du Monde competition in Lyon. The selection for Team 2009 was different. The application specified that if there were fewer than six finalists, a practical would not be held. The team would be selected based on the candidate’s application, portfolio, and an interview with a jury. It just so happened that we ended up with six finalists, so the practical was not held.
Q. When was the final selection decided?
A. The National Team selection was held on November 3 and 4, 2007, at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland which is the official training site of the 2009 team. The selection weekend was sponsored by Valrhona. The team was picked after an in-depth interview with each candidate. L’Academie de Cuisine hosted a dinner in honor of the finalists that evening. On the following day the team held their first meeting, planning their schedule and discussing their theme, dessert concepts, and ideas. The first practice is scheduled for January with monthly group meetings thereafter.
Q. How was it without a practical?
A. The selection worked well without a practical, particularly since the finalist’s abilities were known through previous competitions. In addition to skill and work experience, the jury members interviewed the candidates individually to learn more about them.
Q. How did team dynamics fit into the process?
A. Team dynamics were important. All aspects of each candidate were considered in the selection process, including skill, motivation, and personality. It was very difficult for the jury. Team dynamics were considered because the group will spend a lot of time together and there will be some difficult times. It will be up to each member to resolve any problems and continue with the progress of the team.
Q. What are the strengths of each of the members of this team?
A. What is exciting about this team is the talent they bring together. They are very passionate about their work. Each chef has over 20 years of working experience, and all have excelled in pastry competitions. David Ramirez, Team Captain, and Jim Mullaney, Team Alternate, have competed together three times, collecting Gold and Bronze Medals in the 2005 National and 2006 World Team Championships, and a Silver medal in the 2004 Bread and Pastry Championship. David is Executive Pastry Chef of Rosen Shingle Creek, Orlando, and Jim is Executive Pastry Chef of The Cloister Hotel, Sea Island.
Roy Pell, Executive Pastry Chef of The Phoenician Scottsdale, was part of the 2004 Culinary Olympics team that brought home a Silver and Gold medal. Remy Funfrock, Restaurant Pastry Chef of The Broadmoor Colorado Springs, has competed twice in the National Pastry Championship, winning Silver medals both times. As pastry chefs for leading hotel and resort properties, they are well rounded in all aspects of the pastry field. They have divided the competition responsibilities based on personal interest and strength, but that may change as they develop their routine.
David is said to have the blood type “C” for his love of chocolate, so he will be primarily responsible for the chocolate artistry. Remy and Roy will work together on the ice carving and sugar piece. Remy’s passion is desserts, so he will focus on the desserts as well. Jim, who is extremely goal-oriented, has already immersed himself into learning ice carving. He has the daunting task of needing to be ready in all the required fields at a moment’s notice if something should happen to one of the other teammates.
Q. What is to be accomplished in the next three months?
A. Their first practice is in January, so much will depend on what they accomplish then. By March, the team should have their buffet concept complete and have their flavor profiles for the desserts decided. It is important for them to be secure with the buffet designs before they start to build the pieces. They will work on several dessert ideas in January and refine from there. The beginning is probably the most difficult part in the process. The year goes quickly so they need to think carefully through each step and focus on working efficiently.
Q. Are we on schedule and what are our chances at this point?
A. The team has a schedule of target dates for 2008. It is a tight schedule, so they need to stay focused. Being a serious group, they will make it happen. They have a strong support system surrounding them. At this point, their chances are as good as the other 19 teams. Like the others, it will be up to them to do their best. What really counts is how they feel, especially mentally, at their last practice in December and in the days leading up to the competition. I am very confident that they will represent America well and achieve their goals.