Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chat with... Daniela Molettieri, S Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Canadian Finalist

Back in January I first wrote about the San Pellegrino's Almost Famous Chef Competition and I'm proud to announce the Canadian Finalist (from Montreal, my home town)...
Daniela Molettieri from the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec  won the competition for her Fillet of Veal Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms signature recipe. She'll go on to compete at the finals to be held at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley from March 9-12, 2012. Congratulations Daniela!  

And lucky us, I get to chat with her 

R: What made you want to become a chef ?  And when did you first know that that was the career choice for you?
 D: I first became interested in being a chef when I started CEGEP and wasn't happy sitting in the classes for three hours with a teacher talking at me. I used to skip class to cook at home with my brother. I would be more happy staying home for 8 hours making ravioli than doing anything else. Then a friend mentions the ITHQ to me, and she made me apply, even though I didn't speak a word of french.  Two weeks into the program, I couldn't have been more happy that I had been accepted and that I was doing this for me. 
 R: How did you get selected for the AFC Canadian Regional?
 D: My chef advisor teaches quite a few courses and he had the choice of picking a student to mentor for this competition. I've known Daniel Cote for about a year and a half, and we know the way we work and the style we both like. It was an easy fit and he is the one who approached the school about choosing me.
 R: How did you prepare for the competition? 
 D:  My chef and I have been practicing for about 4 months, once a week, sometimes more. We timed ourselves, and we perfected the components of the dish. Played with plating techniques. We tweaked everything 'til it was perfect. 

R: What were the highlights of the competition?
D: I really enjoyed the water workshop! And of course running on such an adrenaline high in the two hours I had to put out my plate. Having the relief of my name being called that night as the winner was incredible and seeing my mom happy was priceless. I was also every warmly congratulated by the chef judges that were present and that felt amazing! 

 R: Most stressful part?
 D: Knowing that I needed quite a bit of time to dress my plate and worrying that it was going to get cold was the most stressful part for me! Oh and standing in front of 75 people and talking into a mic! 
R: What was the inspiration for your winning dish?
D: I am Italian and we eat a lot of veal, so the protein inspiration came from there. I currently work at Bistro Cocagne, and the chef Alexandre Loiseau likes to use a lot of mushrooms, so I took that aspect and put it in the dish. The puree idea came from a love of the two ingredients, butternut squash and hazelnuts. The veggies were what I could get at this time of year from the supplier that my Chef and I know in Montreal

R: What will you to do prepare between now and the final competition in California?
D: My chef will probably design some surprise baskets to see how I adapt to the situation. We will go over basic cooking techniques depending on what gets thrown at us. 

R:  Where do you see yourself in five years?
D: I see myself as Chef in a restaurant saving up some money to open my own place in 7 years from now. 

R: Anything else you'd like my readers to know about you...your school, your family? 
D:  I am half Indian from Goa and half Italian from Castelfranci, and I have had the extreme fortune of having two parents that love to explore food as much as I do. Since I was young we would try all different sorts of cuisines and I think that's where my diverse palate comes from. 

As for my school, the ITHQ, I now realize more and more, has a quality of student that graduates that is better than most schools. I have such a good base and a solid knowledge of cooking that I think is superiour  to the other competitors I have encountered in any competition I have done. I want to thanks M.  Daniel Cote for coaching me and working side by side with me, because he has pushed my limits and that is something I thoroughly enjoy about a coach/chef! 

AND I get to share her signature recipe.

Filet of Veal Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms, served with Butternut Squash and Roasted Hazelnut Puree

Veal tenderloin is stuffed with flavourful mushrooms offering up a tender roast that is delicate enough to serve atop the sweet puree of butternut squash. Serve up a fresh mix of carrots, parsnips and beets for additional colour and vegetables for the dinner plate.
2 veal or pork tenderloins (about 2 lbs/1 kg)
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
12 oz (375 g) fresh mixed fresh mushrooms, minced
4 shallots, minced
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly ground black pepper
Pinch salt
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) veal or beef stock
1 cup (250 mL) dried mushrooms (about 1 oz/30 g)
 Butternut Squash and Roasted Hazelnut Puree:
1 1/2 lbs (750 g) peeled and cubed butternut squash
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, cubed
Pinch each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped toasted hazelnuts
Butternut Squash Puree: Bring squash to boil in salted water for about 20 minutes or until very soft. Drain well and return to pot. Using potato masher, mash well with butter, salt and pepper. Stir in hazelnuts. Set aside and keep warm.

In large skillet, melt 1/4 cup (60 mL) of the butter over medium high heat; cook mushrooms, shallots, thyme and garlic, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes or until liquid has evaporated. Set aside and let cool.

Using a chef’s knife, make an incision in centre of tenderloin across the middle not cutting through to the other side. Cut along each side to open up a bit more. Stuff centres with mushroom mixture and close back up. Tie tenderloins with butcher’s twine in about 2 inch (5 cm) intervals and place seam side down on parchment paper lined baking sheet; sprinkle with half of the pepper and salt. Roast in 350 F (180 C) oven for about 45 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 150 F (65 C) for medium rare. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, in saucepan combine dried mushrooms and stock and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Drain through fine mesh sieve and return stock to saucepan. Whisk in remaining butter and pepper.

Spread squash in centre of plate and place veal slices alongside. Spoon sauce along meat to serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Tip: To toast hazelnuts, place in baking pan in 350 F (180 C) oven for about 8 minutes or until golden and fragrant.

Tip: You can serve the rehydrated mushrooms alongside the veal and sauce if desired.

Congratulations Daniela and best of luck in California.  We're all rooting for you!

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