In the midst of the giant South Beach Wine & Food Festival, we bring you this small, feel-good story about Johnson & Wales student Luis Young. The 19-year-old has eight more days to get ready for the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition held at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, in Napa Valley, California. Luis, from Panama City, Panama, came to Miami to study at Johnson & Wales in September of 2008. He has already nabbed the South Regional crown against seven students from his alma mater and competing culinary schools from the area, winning with an Herb Scented Seared Venison Tenderloin entree. Now he'll be preparing the same dish against eight other regional winners from across the U.S. (plus one each from Canada and Italy) during a three-day finals (March 5th through 8th). Winner takes home up to $20,000 in prizes and an all-paid apprenticeship from one of the participating chef judges. Last year's winner, David Awad, is currently working at Michael White's Alto in NYC, which just received a Michelin Star.
Short Order spoke with the young, aspiring chef as he prepares to head west for his challenge; plus we've got a photo of his contending venison dish.
You started cooking partly because of a dietary restriction concerning salt, right?
Since I was three years old, I have had a kidney disease which
restricts my ingestion of salt, liquids, preservatives and artificial
colorants. I was bored of the lack of flavors on my foods so began to
experiment with herbs and flavor enhancers. Currently I have changed
my diet; now I am under no restrictions when it comes to liquids, but I
still have to regulate my consumption of salt, and every month I have
to do blood tests to check that my kidneys are working properly.
However, I am conscious that not everyone is under the same conditions
that I am, so when I cook for others, I use salt.
What makes your venison dish so good?
I believe that every single component of the dish makes it what it is,
from the haricot verts to the apple cider jelly sheet (the herb scents
come from rosemary and thyme). It is just the combination of
everything; like in music every instrument plays an important role in
the final piece.
Favorite Miami restaurant?
It's a difficult choice because Miami has some very good ones, such as Michy's, Prelude, and Timo.
What Miami chef would you most like to work with?
There are some great chefs in Miami, like Michelle Bernstein and Allen
Favorite Food Network show?
I like to watch Iron Chef, Good Eats, and the pastry competitions.
What will you do if you win? Do you have any specific restaurant you'd like to work at?
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There are a few restaurants where I really want to go, but if I had to
choose one right now it would be The French Laundry. I deeply admire
Chef Thomas Keller for his philosophy and commitment to this craft.