SUNY Delhi student to vie in international cook-off

Contributed SUNY Delhi Professor Victor Sommo works with Carly Yezzo in this undated photo.

SUNY Delhi culinary arts management student Carly Yezzo said she plans on "keeping it simple again" when she represents the United States in the international Chaîne Des Rôtisseurs Young Chef Competition in 2020. 

But Yezzo's idea of keeping it simple is a bit different from most. The 21-year-old won a national competition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on June 1 that qualified her for the international event, in which she had to whip up creative dishes with eclectic ingredients.

Yezzo came up with herb mousseline and stuffed fish; quinoa salad with gooseberries, ramp and a lemon butter sauce; and farfalle with duck and mushroom ragù, along with sauteed fiddlehead ferns, pork belly and pan-seared duck breast. Dessert was a pistachio streusel cake with lime semifreddo and a maple caramel sauce. 

Though getting a hodgepodge basket of ingredients and preparing a three-course meal with them might seem like a big task, Yezzo said she has a system to keep things organized. Each time, she comes up with a template into which she can plug the unknown ingredients. For example, Yezzo said she knew she'd make a homemade pasta and braise the protein they gave her to make a ragù.

She practiced with chefs Sean Pehrsson and Victor Sommo, both instructors at SUNY Delhi who served as her mentors in preparation for the competition.

"She constantly has her eyes on the prize, she knows what she wants and she's always striving to be the best she can be," Pehrsson said. "She's not just a great chef, she's an awesome student. Her balancing act is unbelievable." 

The competition will take place in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, with dates to be determined.  

Last year, Yezzo was on a team of SUNY Delhi students that represented the United States in the international Copa Culinaria competition in Santiago, Chile, and took first place. Yezzo said she wants to own a restaurant someday and is looking at Maine or Boston, two places she's always wanted to go. In addition to her culinary arts management major and practicing 30 hours a week, she's pursuing an associate's degree in accounting. 

"I was definitely stressed out toward the end of the semester but I tried to put my schoolwork first as much as possible," she said. "It was either schoolwork I was working on or practicing."

Though she has more than a year to prepare for the international competition, Yezzo is wasting no time preparing. When she returns to SUNY Delhi for the fall semester, Sommo and Pehrsson will help her prepare by putting together a "mystery basket" of random ingredients. Similar to the events of real competitions, Yezzo will then spend 30 minutes writing a menu, 3½ hours cooking, and 30 minutes plating. 

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at 607-441-7221 or skarikehalli@thedailystar.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DS_ShwetaK.