Nick Lee

Nick Lee, ICC Culinary Student, Wins World Umami Cooking Competition!

Competes against five top culinary schools for an all expense-paid culinary tour in Japan.

The first-ever World Umami Forum, presented by Ajinomoto this past September, brought food science experts, renowned researchers and top culinary professionals together for a two-day consortium aimed at deepening the understanding of umami and it’s essential role in American cuisine, as well as opened the conversation about monosodium glutamate and some of the common myths surrounding MSG.

As part of the conference, the World Umami Forum challenged six semi-finalists from America’s top culinary schools in the inaugural United States of Umami Cooking Competition, held on September 20th, to create their best original, umami-rich recipe in the form of a signature entrée. ICC was honored to be selected as one of the six culinary schools, including The Culinary Institute of America and Johnson & Wales University, to participate in the competition. Through an internal selection process led by ICC’s Director of Culinary Arts & Technology, Chef Hervé Malivert, Professional Culinary Arts student Nick Lee was selected to represent ICC in the competition. (Nick was selected for the competition while a student at ICC, but has recently graduated from the program).

Judged on technique and taste, these culinary students went head-to-head for a chance to win an all-expense paid culinary trip to Japan. After months of preparation refining his umami-rich recipe and one-on-one practice with ICC’s resident culinary competition coach, Chef Hervé, we’re excited to announce that ICC student, Nick Lee, was selected as the winner of the competition! We couldn’t be more proud to share Nick’s journey to victory with all of you, and the recipe behind his winning dish.

Born in South Korea, Nick grew up in the United States with a love for experiencing different cultures—travelling through various countries and living in Japan, China, and Cambodia for a time. Nick holds a Bachelors of Science degree in both Mechanical Engineering and Psychology from the University of Illinois, and his unique career background ranges from engineering, accounting and military, to hotel management—he’s worked both front of house & back of house in hotel restaurants. Having always been passionate about food, Nick decided to pursue this passion by enrolling in the International Culinary Center’s Professional Culinary Arts program in January 2018. He is currently in his final externship level of the program at Jean Georges’ Mercer Kitchen in Soho.

In preparation for the competition, Nick trained one-on-one for months with our Director of Culinary Arts & Technology, Chef Hervé Malivert. Chef Hervé has coached many ICC students in competition to success including: Rose Weiss, winner of the 2011 Bocuse d’Or Commis Competition; Christopher Ravanello, Northeast Regional winner of the 2012 S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition; Colfax Selby, Northeast Regional winner of the 2015 S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition; Mimi Chen, winner of the 2016 Ment’or Commis competition. Through this preparation and hard work, Nick refined his recipe, timing and plating to be able to come home to ICC victorious as the 1st place winner!

The main requirement of the competition was to create an original dish circled around the theme of umami. While Nick had many directions he could have pursued for his dish, he was passionate about using all the umami ingredients that were naturally rich in MSG. That left him with ingredients like kombu, Parmigiano Reggiano, tomatoes and shiitake mushrooms. From there, he wanted to create a dish that embodied both western and eastern influences that would best represent ICC in his mind. A dish in South Korea that translates to an abalone porridge came to his mind, and he thought making a risotto out of this dish would be a great way to elevate the flavors of the ingredients he wanted to work with.

Check out Nick’s winning recipe below and you’ll see why his dish took home the gold!

Butter Poached Abalone

Served with Roasted Mushroom Risotto and Oven Dried Tomatoes

YIELD: 4 Servings

The winning dish

 

The winning dish

INGREDIENTS

For the Kombu Stock

200 g dashi kombu

200 g onion (2 whole onions)

100 g dried shiitake mushroom

200 g daikon radish

200 g leek, cleaned

6 cloves garlic

3 kg water

For the Oven Dried Tomatoes

300 g cherry tomato

140 g extra virgin olive oil

10 g parsley, chopped fine

10 g basil, chopped fine

10 g thyme sprigs

Salt and pepper to taste

For the Seaweed Crisp

20 g seaweed sheet

80 g rice flour

50 g water

10 g sesame seeds

10 g sugar

50 g soy sauce

300 g kombu stock

10 g sesame oil

Salt and pepper to taste

For the Abalone

5 ~ 6 fresh abalone

280 g butter

Salt and pepper to taste

For the Risotto

60 g extra virgin olive oil

100 g shallots, very finely chopped

80 g cremini mushroom, finely chopped

500 g Arborio rice

30 g soy sauce

125 g dry white wine

1 ½ kg kombu stock, or as needed*

60 g butter, plus an additional 60 g for finishing the risotto

100 g freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Salt and pepper to taste

 

For the Roasted Mushroom

200 g oyster mushroom

200 g shitake mushroom

200 g maitake mushroom

1 bunch of rosemary

2 head of garlic

For Service

50 g purple radish microgreen

50 g Brussels sprout leaves

Extra virgin olive oil

PROCEDURE

For the Kombu Stock

  1. Cut kombu into squares and steep in some of the water used for the stock.
  2. Put kombu and the water steeped in into a large pot and add aromatic elements.
  3. Bring everything to boil and take kombu out immediately once it starts to boil.
  4. Strain the stock carefully and set aside for use.

For the Cherry Tomato Confit

  1. Preheat convection oven to 300°
  2. Cut tomatoes in half, in a bowl season with S/P and olive oil.
  3. Baked in oven on a bed of thyme for about 45 min or until tomato done.
  4. Once the tomatoes are done add the herbs and set aside.

For the Roasted Mushrooms

  1. Clean and cut mushrooms to desired size, season with XV olive oil, salt and pepper.
  2. Bake in 350°F convection oven on top of a bed a rosemary, until cooked and golden brown.
  3. Remove and set aside.

For the Seaweed Crisp

  1. Mix rice flour and water together to make batter.
  2. Cut seaweed into squares and apply batter on one side of seaweed. Sprinkle sesame seed on top of battered side of seaweed.
  3. Fry seaweed in 325°F, take it out to a cooling rack with paper towel when it starts to brown.
  4. Combine kombu stock, soy sauce, sugar until ¼ of original volume.
  5. Add sesame oil to reduced stock and drizzle over battered side of seaweed.

For the Abalone

  1. Separate abalone from the shell with a spoon.
  2. Make quadrillage mark on top of the abalone using a knife.
  3. Season each side of abalone with salt and pepper and sear until brown on each side.
  4. Butter poach abalone gently.
  5. Remove transfer to a container, smoked slightly and cover until service.
  6. On the same butter poached the Brussels sprout leaves right before serving.

For the Risotto

  1. Bring the stock to a slow, steady simmer in a russe.
  2. In a wide, shallow sautoir, sweat the finely chopped shallots and cremini mushroom in 60 g butter until soft and translucent.
  3. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until it is hot and evenly coated with fat.
  4. Add the white wine and simmer until it has evaporated.
  5. Add enough of the stock to just cover the rice, stirring constantly with the wooden spoon, keeping the sides and bottom of the pot clean as you stir. Keep the rice at a brisk simmer and stir continuously. Continue adding stock a ½ cup at a time, until the liquid is absorbed, and maintain the heat at a lively pace.
  6. Taste the rice after 12-15 minutes. The rice is done when it is tender but still firm to the bite. As you approach the final minutes of cooking, gradually reduce the amount of stock that you add. The liquid should be a little soupy because the addition of the final ingredients will tighten up the risotto.
  7. Off the heat, add the roasted mushrooms, soy sauce, the remaining 60 g of butter, and grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the risotto energetically with the wooden spoon to whip the ingredients together. The consistency of the rice should be thick and creamy but still have movement, so add a few drops of stock if necessary to achieve the correct consistency.

For Service

  1. Spoon risotto into warm bowls.
  2. Slice Abalone ¼ inch thick on a bias.
  3. Garnish with seaweed crisps cherry tomato, Brussels sprout leaves, and micro purple radish.