Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Chef Summit 2018

FTC Disclaimer:  This trip was sponsored by Certified Angus Beef® Brand in conjunction with a social media campaign through Sunday Supper LLC.  All opinions are my own.

Earlier this month Alexis and I were thrilled to attend Chef Summit 2018 at the Certified Angus Beef® Brand's Culinary Center.  Chefs from all over North America came to

  • get hands-on butchery lessons and break down a side of beef,
  • see the level of dedication and care that goes into producing the Best Angus Beef, and
  • gain a better appreciation of under-utilized cuts to use for delicious and profitable menu items.

Here is some of the fun that David Dial (Spiced...One Dash At A Time), Cindy Kerschner (Cindy's Recipes and Writings), Alexis and I had while getting to learn side-by-side with the chefs. 

Day 1

The first day was a reception followed by a dinner prepared by the talented chefs of the Culinary Center. 

Because the event started in the early evening, Alexis and I drove up instead of flying.  This allowed us to enjoy a casual drive through the slightly mountainous Kentucky/Tennessee border, rolling horse country of Kentucky, and the bucolic countryside of Ohio.

Tara opened the event with a session about the history of the brand.  Fun Fact: The Certified Angus Beef® Brand all started because a rancher got a flavorless, tough steak at a restaurant.
The brand began as a desire to foster quality beef.  This program was built on a foundation of quality specifications formulated by a meat scientist.  To this day, quality is the key to their pull-through marketing strategy.

Waste not, want not.  The chefs use trimmings from the Meat Lab to create tasty beef sausages. The tasso is a beefy spin on a spicy Cajun ham that we have made at home, and it was my favorite of the bunch.

Melon wrapped with cured beef - the salty and sweet combo worked well together. 
Shut the front door!  Poke-style cap steak on taro chips.  The very rare cap steak was lightly coated with an array of Asian flavors, and the crisp chip brought the texture.  This was my favorite dish of the appetizers, and I'd love to serve this at an Eggfest or cooking demo.

The Culinary Center's Lead Chef, Ashley Breneman (Cutthroat Kitchen, Chopped Grill Masters Napa, and Master Chef), talks us through the variety of dishes that they created for us.

Shaved Teres Major Flatbread would be a fun shared appetizer or an entree.
Pasta made with a luscious smoked chuck roll that was straight up comfort food.

The real show stopper, for me at least, was the Osso Buco-style Beef Short Ribs. I love beef short ribs anyway, but the presentation just makes it that much better. These were fan-freaking-tastic.

After dinner, Matt Shoup and I checked out the Culinary Center's dry aging and meat curing cabinet. They are lucky we brought our small car and not our truck or this cabinet "might have disappeared".

That's the funky stuff!  There was some 55 day dry aged beef in here.

Day 2

We hit the ground running in the Meat Lab the next morning.  I've gotten to experience the Meat Lab once before for Grill Talk but we were only breaking down primals then.  This time we were breaking down a half steer.  

I don't mean that we watched someone break down a half steer.  Each team of 4 or 5 people had our own side of beef to butcher

Ain't no party like a Meat Lab party.

The morning session opened with The Science Behind The Sizzle™, explaining how each of the 10 science-based specifications ensures a flavorful eating experience.

I harp on the 10 Science-Based Specifications because they are the important difference between Certified Angus Beef® Brand and other Angus brands.

Then the fun really kicked in! Diana Clark, Meat Scientist, took us through breaking down a side of beef, step-by-step.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intimidated.  What's the best way to get over being intimidated?

To get over intimidation, you jump right in when they ask for a volunteer during the demonstration. And as fate would have it, I got to saw off the bone-in brisket.  I love brisket. 

I did that!  Can you see the brisket flat and point layered in there between the bones and fat? I have to say this gave me a better appreciation for and understanding of that glorious cut of beef.

David Dial got right in there too.

As soon as they showed us a step, we would go back and repeat (or attempt to repeat) that step on our steer.

At the lunch break, I was able to "IRL meet" Chef Gavin Pinto.  One of Chef Gavin's many roles is hosting Certified Angus Beef® Brand's Facebook Live videos like this one about smoking beef.

One of our lunch recipes was Shredded Certified Angus Beef® Chuck Roll Philly Cheesesteak with Parmesan Truffle Fries. 
I was a big fan of the chuck roll this weekend after having it in three different dishes.  It's like a cross between brisket and chuck roast. Beefy, tender, and luscious.

Asian Zing Stir Fry using Certified Angus Beef® Clod with Steamed Rice and Stir-Fry Veggies.

To move the large pieces of beef around, the Meat Lab utilizes a ceiling mounted rail system of suspended hooks.
Diana watching some of her students practicing what she demonstrated.

The class is an experience in understanding where the individual cuts come from and how its location affects the taste, tenderness, and appearance of the beef.  An example of this would be how the chuck eye and rib eye are right next to each other, so the chuck eye is close to the same palatability of the ribeye but usually at a much cheaper price.

First, look at the marbling of this skirt steak!  Second, did you know that the skirt steak is the steers diaphragm? 

Two of my teammates, Matt and JJ, fabricating smaller cuts.

Matt did the Osso Buco treatment to our beef ribs.  I can't wait to try this at home and create a recipe with it.  
After a long day in the Meat Lab, we were treated to dinner at The City Square Steakhouse.

Day 3

The third day started bright and early....well at least early, I'm not sure how bright I Atterholt Farms.  This family farm owned by two brothers is a seed stock program (breeding for other ranches) with 50-80 head depending on the time of year.

This farm has 700 acres for the cattle, feed hay farming, and crops such as soybean and corn.
We learned that raising cattle to earn the Certified Angus Beef® Brand designation is no accident.  I was amazed at the planning and forethought that goes into it. The Atterholts start with artificial insemination.  Here's the quick takes of what I learned about that process:

  • Ranchers get a bull semen catalog that lists statistics about prospective bulls and their expected progeny differences.  This lets them select the ideal bull for meeting the 10 specifications.
  • Bull semen costs about $20 a vial which is good for one attempt.
  • Bull semen can be frozen and lasts indefinitely so it is possible to breed using semen from a champion steer that has been dead for years and years.
  • The Atterholt's success rate with A.I. is about 60%.  
  • They target the same calving date each year (during January - March) so about 285 days prior to the cow's last calving date, they attempt the A.I.
  • The month after A.I. attempts, any cows that go into heat (meaning A.I. didn't take) are placed with a "clean up" bull to attempt normal insemination.

Page from a bull semen catalog. It's kind of like for cattle.

The tag on the ear has 3 numbers.  The large middle number is the cow's ID# with the first number being the last digit of the year the cow was born (in this case, 2015) and the next three digits are just the order of birth, so this was the 25th calf in 2015.  The top number is the mother's ID# and the bottom is the birthdate.

Expected Progeny Differences are statistics that let the rancher know the genetic worth of a prospective bull and the probable traits of its offspring.

The calf on the left is Ferdinand.  He is a "bottle calf" meaning his mother rejected him and wouldn't care for him so the Atterholts had to bottle feed him, requiring a lot more resources and effort.  Murphy, the dog, loves Ferdinand.

This shot was taken in June....not February.  It was just a cold snap.

After the ranch, the chefs had a session on marketing while we bloggers got a tour of the facilities.

Certified Angus Beef® Brand headquarters has a wonderful set up for their photography and video productions.  The prop closet alone is a food blogger's dream.  

They have kitchens every time that you turn around.  I think they had a total of 4? This is the kitchen that they use for their FB Live videos.
I found out that the Certified Angus Beef® Brand is a great employer to work for.  They have an onsite physician, psychologist, and a lawyer for the staff to utilize for their personal needs! I was seriously impressed.

G-schedules are specifications set out by premium brands for the USDA graders to determine if the beef they are examining meets the premium brand's requirements. There are hundreds of them.  Certified Angus Beef® Brand's schedule is Schedule G-1 because they were the first such program in the country.
Me, Alexis, David, and Cindy in one of the many kitchens.


The last part of the event was the cook-off using the 5 teams.  We had to pick one of the cuts that we trimmed out on Day 2.

Scoring was based on taste, texture, appearance, presentation, and cost-effectiveness.  You also got bonus points for using more obscure cuts of beef.  We went with the mock tender.

We had access to farm fresh produce and anything in the pantries and freezers.

I was on a super-talented team, it was fun just getting to watch them in action and help out. Jorge, Matt, and JJ were rock stars.  I need to learn to cook with their speed and efficiency.

With 5 cook teams, you can imagine the kitchens were crazy busy.

Alexis shredded smoked chuck roll for her team's dish.

We used the mock tender for this Cuban-style tartare with a red-eye gravy aioli, crispy fried potatoes, a sous vide egg, and blue corn Johnny cakes.

I forget the description for this one but I know that it used the inside skirt steak

Smoked chuck roll ragu.  They smoked the chuck roll for 4 hours and then braised it to finish.  This was my personal favorite of throwdown recipes.

Thin sliced coulotte, blackberries, radish, fennell and Fresno chiles. 
The winning dish was Soy Braised Beef Belly Bao Buns with Pickled Cucumbers and Onions.

Here is the costing sheet for our dish.  You can see how using these lesser known cuts really boosts the profitability of a menu item.  Use beef tenderloin instead and you have a much different bottom line.

Before we knew it, the Chef Summit was over and it was time to bid the Culinary Center farewell.