Daniel Gorman, the 26-year-old “Tournant” chef at the Inn at Little Washington, is the mid-Atlantic regional winner in the national “2013 Best Young Chef” competition sponsored by the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs.
This weekend, Gorman competes against nine other regional winners from throughout the U.S., Hawaii and Caribbean Islands for top honors in the national finals, at Chicago’s Kendall College, one of the country’s top culinary schools. Chefs must be younger than 27 (as of Sept. 1) to compete.
The U.S. national winner receives a crystal trophy, red medal and three years’ membership in the Chaine. He or she will travel to Istanbul, Turkey for the Sept. 6 international finals of the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs’ International Jeunes Chefs Rotisseurs Competition, a contest that typically brings together about 24 of the world’s top young chefs from among the 80 member nations. The U.S. has won the international contest only once in its 36-year history – in 2011.
The national and international contests require competitors to plan, prepare and plate three courses in four hours using a mystery basket of ingredients as well as a typically stocked pantry of items made available during the contest. The contestants are judged on their culinary skills by a panel of distinguished chefs. Winners will be announced at an awards gala at the Trump Hotel Chicago.
In high school, Gorman spent a lot of time cooking at home. “Nothing special,” he remarked, “just simple comfort food. I had a love of food, but I had a greater love of being in the kitchen. I was always just comfortable there. So when I graduated high school, instead of going to a four-year school for business like I had planned, I went to a local college, AB Tech (Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College), where I discovered the culinary arts and got my associate degree.
“When I got into school, I started my first job at a small local Italian restaurant in Asheville called Amici, where I got my first real glimpse into the industry and the teamwork/brigade environment that comes with it,” Gorman continued.
“Then I worked in a few other small places during college. I did my internship at the Ocean Room at the Sanctuary in Kiawah, S.C. The time I spent in the Ocean Room was the changing point in my career, where it became a true passion. After that I spent five-plus years at Cherokee Town and Country Club, where I progressed from line cook, to sous chef, to chef de cuisine. I learned a lot there. Now, at the Inn at Little Washington, as a Tournant [the station chef who can run any station in a large kitchen] I’m focusing more on details and learning more.”
As reasons why he finds cooking an exciting career Daniel observed, “It’s always changing. There are no ends, yet there is so much satisfaction in making other people happy through food and service. There are many culinary trends today, too many to list. But I am always interested more and more in farm-to-table and sustainable practices. I’m currently volunteering at our farm at the Inn to learn more about where our food comes from.”
Turning his attention to changes in consumers’ dining tastes over the past few years Gorman observed, “It all depends on the places you live and the current diet fads. But I feel as if more and more people are conscious of what they are eating and where it comes from. This makes the job of a chef and practicing farm-to-table easier and more fun.
“I think people are trying to focus more on what is true to their area and cooking food in the best possible, sometimes the simplest, way to make an impression on the industry and the guest. But I would also say that Asian inspiration is very strong today, both ingredients and techniques. I personally tend to stay close to home [Atlanta], using a lot of southern inspiration in my cooking, as well as a strong love for bold and spice-driven flavors. Actually, the Inn is a world of its own.”
Daniel has been competing for more than seven years. “It is always fun and a great learning opportunity,” he remarked. “I’ve met a lot of great cooks and chefs through time. I have been very lucky, yet it takes a lot of time and dedication to be successful. It can also be a great way to see the world. I have been to Brazil, Canada, Korea and hopefully I can do well enough to see Turkey! To prepare for a high-level national competition such as the Chaine’s, I practice, practice, practice, almost more on paper and through organization than cooking. Time management and menu writing skills are just as important in this competition as the food . . . without it, it’s hard to deliver.”
In addition to Gorman, nine other chefs will be competing in Chicago, including Adam Kube, Chef de Cuisine, Ritz-Carlton, Boston, Mass.; Allison Weldon, Ravenous Pig Gastro Pub, Winter Park Fla.; Brandon Zarb, Sous Chef at Henri, Chicago; Charles Gardiner, CEC, Demi Chef, The Inn on Biltmore Estate, Asheville N.C.; Rachael Potts, executive chef, Doubletree Hilton, San Antonio, Texas; Jonathan Courtney, Cook 1, St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, Calif.; Oleg Vetkov, line cook, Canlis Restaurant, Seattle, Wash.; Gary Marcos, line cook, Halekulani Hotel & Resort, Honolulu, Hawaii; and Dwayne Sinclair.
The Chaine des Rotisseurs, which has 22,000 members worldwide, 6,000 in the U.S., has chapters throughout the United States and around the globe. Two important programs of the Chaine are the Young Sommeliers competition and a Young Chefs competition. Both encourage younger members of the hospitality industry. Additional information about the Chaine des Rotisseurs is available at its U.S. website, chaineus.org, and international website, chainedesrotisseurs.com.