Kelly Cheng, a first semester BBA student at Les Roches, has served up a sensational culinary triumph.
Kelly had no professional kitchen experience before arriving at the school in February this year. But that didn’t stop her creating and delivering an outstanding flambé recipe to win the Martina Visconti Trophy– a prestigious international competition held each year in Sicily.
Kelly prepared a flambé with a distinctively Swiss flavor. It consisted of stuffed quail with crispy Valaisian bacon, flambéed with abricotine (an apricot-based spirit that’s a specialty of the Valais region) and paired with a quail gravy sauce. It not only scooped the main prize; Kelly also received the “best food nutrition knowledge” award.
Her success was all the more remarkable given her relative inexperience compared with the rest of the field. Competitors were drawn from some of the most prestigious culinary arts schools in Italy and elsewhere – many of them three years into their practical training.
“I have enjoyed this experience so much and I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to travel to such a beautiful and historical place, to learn and to meet different professional chefs,” says Kelly. “Most importantly, I’ve been able to serve my own creation and to prove to myself – and the world – that I am capable of doing things that others might not think were possible.”
The team behind the win
Like all great success stories, this was something of a team effort. Kelly was guided along her way by two of the seasoned professionals who are part of Les Roches’ Practical Arts faculty: Service Instructor Vincenzo Aiosi and Culinary Instructor Samuel Huet.
For Vincenzo, returning to Sicily for the competition had special – and poignant – relevance. “This was my hotel school and Martina Visconti, for whom the competition is named as a memorial, was one of my fellow students,” he explains. “While it brought back a lot of emotions, I was so proud to come back to my school and to show my professional progress, as well as demonstrating the excellence of our students at Les Roches.”
Samuel Huet, who is based at Les Roches’ farm-to-table fine dining restaurant Roots, helped Kelly to perfect her flambé recipe. He says, “Kelly did an amazing job given her experience and the fact we only had a month for training ahead of the competition. It’s a perfect illustration of the excellence we strive for.
“Although the recipe was all Kelly’s creation, I helped her to balance the flavors, particularly in the sauce, while also working with her on the preparation of the dish, as well as the showpiece of the flambé technique itself.”
As for Kelly, she hopes this is just the first step on the path to an entrepreneurial future. “Since I was very young I’ve wanted to operate my own restaurant business. I’m passionate about my food and beverage and I love cooking, so I’m hoping my time studying at Les Roches will help to open up these opportunities in future.”
What is a flambé?
For those not familiar with the term, a flambé is a dish made in the dining room not the kitchen, during which alcohol is added to a hot pan to create a burst of flames. By partially burning off the volatile alcohol, flambéing reduces the alcoholic content of the dish while keeping the flavors of the liquor.
The process can be used for both savory dishes, such as Kelly’s competition entry, or for popular desserts such as Crêpes Suzette or Bananas Foster.