The Reno, Nevada 2012 American Culinary Federation Western Regional Conference, March 12–14, provided some 400 attendees with three days of opportunities for professional development and platforms to enhance their culinary skills.
Percy Whatley, chief executive chef at The Ahwahnee, Yosemite, California, a Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts Inc. property, can attest to the life changing nature of this event as he was named ACF Western Region Chef of the Year Award Winner.
“I’m especially proud of my brigade for being so supportive in allowing me to step away from my duties to participate in these events. The guidance and support of our master chef Roland Henin with the Delaware North Companies has been invaluable.”
Chef Whatley’s 23-years experience and training with Culinary Institute of America of Hyde Park NY, have taught him to appreciate and utilize local ingredients, of which he has an abundance being near the central California valley. An organic certified farm provides abundant produce to the Ahwahnee, fed by rich alluvial soils watered by snow melt streams of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
In the competition he displayed accomplishment with several different techniques including smoked, braising, flakes, stocks, puree, gels and emulsifications. He enjoys using the off cuts of meat, which is sometimes too extreme for the 4 diamond hotel clientele. They usually want prime cuts. “Sometimes we find a way to incorporate off cuts into the menu that will be accepted adding new flavor and dimensions,” he says. “Like the pork crock pot shoulder and belly with broth and southern style mustard seed cabbage and carrots with cheddar cheese dijon biscuits.”
The crown jewel of the Ahwahnee is their magnificent dining room touted on the website (http://www.yosemitepark.com/Dining_AhwahneeDiningRoom_MeetTheChef.aspx ). It proudly announces their “award winning Chef Whatley” of 15 years who can now add another feather to his cap with the ACF Western Region award.
As to advice for up and coming chefs Whatley suggests, “Find a mentor with past competition experience and don’t be stubborn about listening to advice. Let them push you out of your comfort zone and help you discover the better chef inside.”
About the Author: LA Sharpe of Glendale AZ is a freelance writer and editor for various specialty publications, with a background in marketing and business entrepreneurship. She can be reached at 602-565-5785 or email@example.com.