It's a championship season for chefs all over the world

July 07, 1996|By SYLVIA BADGER

IT'S "OLYMPIMANIA" time -- and I'm not talking about the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where the world's greatest athletes are gathering to compete. Nope, it's the International Culinary Olympics, which will be in Berlin in September. Kitchens throughout the world are filled with more than 2,500 chefs training to compete against culinary masters, all hoping to take home a gold, silver or bronze medal.

It's one of the most prestigious culinary competitions in the world, and Maryland is sending a team of eight chefs. The team manager, Rudy Speckamp, knows how to prepare members for competition, since he won a gold medal in the 1988 Culinary Olympics. Rudy is one of only 50 master chefs in the United States and owns Rudys' 2900 in Westminster.

For practice and to help defray costs, the chefs are having several gourmet dinners to help raise $75,000 for expenses associated with the trip to Berlin. I recently attended one of the dinners at the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel, where I sat with Peter Bheda, Omni general manager; Rose Marie Smith, Far Corners Travel, who is handling travel arrangements for the team; and Mary and Bob Thuman -- she's with Good Will Industries. Nearby was Mike Szimanski, MMA advertising, who helped organize the dinner; Janet Eckman and her husband, Ed Hirsch, who's an international banker; Jim and Dulany Noble -- she owns Gala Cloths by Dulany, a company that rents and sells designer table linens; Bill Ewing, Maryland Food Bank; and Paul Rolandelli, manager of Second Helping, the charity that will receive any cash raised over the goal.

Speckamp said a chef knows he's done something right when a customer says, "Oh, could I eat that, please?" instead of "That looks too good to eat." Certainly the team did everything right that night, because the food did more than just look good.

We dined on cold squash soup (it tasted like gazpacho), salmon Napoleon, passion fruit sorbet, roast duck breast stuffed with portabello mousse, panzanella, roast loin of lamb, and a chocolate dessert. Courses were accompanied by a Hogue Cellars Johannisberg Riesling, a B.V. Carneros Chardonnay, a Firesteed Pinot Noir, a Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon and a Fonseca Bin No. 27, all donated by Churchill Distributors.

Other chefs on the Maryland team are Christopher Jorcin, the Omni's new director of food and beverage and a silver and bronze medal winner in the 1988 Olympics; William Lay, most recently executive chef at Baltimore's Parrot Island restaurant; Marshall Rosenthal, pastry chef at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, who specializes in chocolate sculptures; Tony Talucci, executive chef at the Hillendale Country Club, who was born in Italy and trained in Europe; Steven M. Mangan, executive chef at the Wye River Conference Center in Queenstown; Adi Rehm, owner of Rehm's Caterers since 1970; John Rocca, Chestnut Ridge Country Club executive chef; and Susan Notter, founder of the International School of Confectionery Arts in Gaithersburg, who was unable to be at the Omni.

And it's business before pleasure for team member chef Vito Piazza Sr., executive chef for Timonium caterers Chef's Expressions, who left the team when he was asked to provide catering services for one of the U.S. Olympic teams at the Atlanta Olympics.

There's another team fund-raiser scheduled July 29, which they are calling an Eastern Shore "Dine Around" evening. The eating fest begins at chef Mark Henry's Chester River Inn; then guests board a bus, which will stop at chef Michael Rork's place on the town dock in St. Michaels, the Inn at Perry Cabin, and the Wye Institute. Tickets are $100 and may be reserved by calling Bill Hedgepeth at the Omni Hotel, (410) 385-6565.

Beautiful music

Speaking of the Eastern Shore, there is more to brag about than the skipjacks, crabs, waterfowl and beautiful water. It's the Eastern Shore Chamber Music Festival, in its 11th year, where for two weeks in June, 12 talented classical artists perform a series of concerts in and around Easton.

I had the pleasure of going to the last concert at "The Reach," a waterfront home on the Miles River designed by architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen for Robin and Thomas Clarke (he recently retired from his Midwest company, Clark Equipment). They offered the use of the great room in their house for the last concert and a reception for about 100 people. The air conditioning chose that day to go on the blink, but most forgot the heat while listening to the wonderful music of Mozart, Jolivet, Beethoven and Prokofiev.

There was a special moment when artistic director J. Lawrie Bloom, whose parents, Eve and Ralph Bloom, live in Easton, performed a Brahms piece in memory of the festival's founder, Harry Feinberg. Feinberg's grandson, Adam Cohen, played the piano for the selection.

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