In the morning, the meal was wienerschnitzel, coq au vin and Hungarian goulash. In the afternoon, it was a five-star, five-course meal made from a “Market Basket” of unknown ingredients. Sounds delicious—for those who got to eat it. But for those who had to cook, it was torture. But that’s what it took to earn the title of Certified Master Chef—eight hours of cooking for eight straight days under the intense heat of ovens, stoves and nine judges critiquing skill, presentation and taste.
Of the 12 who were trying to earn the prestigious title from the American Culinary Federation, seven couldn’t take the heat and had to get out of the kitchen. Five earned the elite title, including Brian Sode, a 2002 MBA graduate who is now one of only 66 Master Chefs in the nation.
Sode, who was previously profiled in the Winter 2007 issue of Xavier magazine, met the criteria for admission as a result of more than 30 years as an executive chef, and then used his wits to create a gourmet meal from unknown ingredients presented to him 30 minutes before the session began. Under his knowing hands, ham hocks became a pancetta-wrapped pork tenderloin with smoked ham mousseline puree on braised red cabbage with sliced apples. “It’s all about your experiences in the kitchen,” he says. “That last day is set up in a way that only allows you to work on your instincts. That’s what separates out those who pass. They can make it work when they’re under that type of pressure.”