Andrew Dubrule is a 25-year-old State University College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill student cooking his way into a career.
One of 170 students in the culinary arts program at the college, Dubrule is the only local college student chosen to participate in the 11th annual “Almost Famous Chef Competition,” which will be held Jan. 22 and 23 at the Astor Center in New York City.
The winner will compete in the national competition in March in Napa Valley, Calif. The big winner there will get a yearlong apprenticeship with a master chef as well as $20,000 in prize money.
Dubrule got his shot to participate in the event when his professor, David Campbell, asked him if he was interested in preparing for it.
“Absolutely,” Dubrule recalled answering.
“I feel really passionate about cooking, and I like to use my hands,” he said when asked what attracted him to the culinary arts.
He noted his grandfather operated a small restaurant in Albany and taught him how to cook. He later bussed tables at a restaurant, but took a break from the food industry after initially studying to become a wilderness recreation leader and then a welder. He said he decided that neither field appealed to him.
“I realized I had to get my life in order and find
something I enjoyed doing and make money with it,” the Glens Falls native said.
The contestants are judged on how they perform in preparing 10 plated e@Body Copy Ragged:ntree portions of an original signature dish fit to serve at a fine dining establishment. The criteria for scoring includes sanitary food handling, organization, flavor, degree of doneness of the dish, serving methods and presentation, all in a way that meets with the time limits, menu and ingredient compatibility.
Dubrule and Campbell worked together in figuring out the components that would go into the meal he will cook and plate at the Astor Center: a duo of pork, featuring pork tenderloin infused with thyme and braised pork shoulder, along with roast pumpkin risotto. Also on the dish will be Brussels sprouts and red pearl onions.
“We tried to keep it seasonal with the ingredients we selected,” Dubrule said. Following the adage that practice makes perfect, Dubrule said he has been practicing almost daily under the watchful eye of Campbell, trying to make sure all of the ingredients are ready to go on the plates within several minutes of the two-hour deadline. Being too early with the preparation creates as many problems as being late, he said.
“Everything really has to come out on the dot,” Dubrule said.
During the practice period, he said, he considers himself fortunate that his girlfriend likes to eat leftover risotto.
Dubrule said his family wanted to attend the competition but could not because it is not open to the public.
“They’re all rooting me on,” he said.
As for his chances of coming out on top?
“I’m going to give it my best,” he said. “I really do feel I have a good shot at winning. But it’s more about getting the experience and getting the opportunity down there. Even if I don’t win, I can at least get my name out there and let people see what I can do.”
Campbell, a professor at the Cobleskill campus for 19 years and a former restaurant chef himself, said he hopes Dubrule’s participation in the Almost Famous Chef Competition will put the Cobleskill program on the map.
“We’re breaking the ice here competition-wise, and we will be looking into getting into more competitions,” he said.