ORLANDO, Fla. — “Lose 100 pounds each, and the biggest loser will be the winner,” was the challenge announced at the American Culinary Federations (ACF) opening general session of the 2012 ACF National Convention meeting, which will run until July 17 at the Marriott World Centre in Orlando, Fla.
Donald Gyurkovits, Canadian Culinary Federation (CCFCC) president, and Michael Ty, ACF’s national president, both big men physically, called on 25-year culinary professional Robert Irvine, host of the Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible, to judge and referee the competition; he agreed. The challenge was announced by event chairman Ty before a room set up for 800 chefs, with 50 to 100 standing around the periphery.
Foodservice and Hospitality magazine’s group publisher Mitch Kostuch, who was in the audience, subsequently spoke with both challengers and offered to set up an official weight barometer updated regularly on the publication’s website, foodserviceandhospitality.com. Details of the challenge have yet to be determined.
“Food is the key to whatever you do as a chef,” Irvine told the packed room, blending humour at a “laugh-a-minute pace” with advice on everything from restaurant profitability to cookery. He prepared a fish plate and showed how to cut skinless grapefruit sections. He asked the audience why chef’s stay in their jobs, saying, “the working conditions are terrible, no days off, long 16-hour days, and that’s the easy part.” He responded: “passion, chefs make people happy. That’s the reward.” He held the 800-plus person audience spellbound for more than an hour and earned a long standing ovation. One and a half hours later he was still signing copies of his book Mission: Cook with some 40 or more chefs waiting in line.
Previously seen on Dinner: Impossible and the Worst Cooks in America, Irvine’s Restaurant: Impossible attempts to save America’s most desperate restaurants from impending failure in two days with $10,000. During each “extreme mission,” Irvine assesses the restaurant’s facets and overhauls it, updating menus, retraining staff and implementing aesthetic changes with his design team, before hitting the streets to tell the community about the improved restaurant. “I know nothing about the restaurant or the owners before I walk in an hour before we start taping,” Irvine said. “I focus first on the management and the owners. In more than half of our cases management is the problem.”
Among the Canadians attending the ACF event there are two junior chefs, Kelly Baik (CCFCC Toronto ) and Tiffani McBee (CCFCC Saskatoon), who are serving as CCFCC junior ambassadors. Five Canadians got into the spirit of the event, dressing in pirate costumes for the Parrty Haarrd Maties Pirates of the Floribbean Ice Breaker Reception opening night.