Local chef to represent Rhode Island on national stage
Chef Rizwan Ahmed of Bristol's Hourglass Brasserie has been nominated by Governor Chaffee to represent Rhode Island in the "Great American Seafood Cookoff" in New Orleans, Louisiana. Some 250 chefs are nominated nationwide, but few make the final cut—an honor determined by the office of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Ahmed learned last Friday that he was selected to be among the 14 elite chefs who will compete in the final event August 3rd, to be broadcast on PBS and the Food Network.
This is the first time a Rhode Island chef has made the cut in this nearly ten-year-old event, long dominated by states like Louisiana, California, Florida, Texas and Maine, all well-known for their fine seafood traditions. Ahmed received a congratulatory call from Jindal's office following he selection. "It makes sense that Rhode Island, the Ocean State, is represented in this event," says Ahmed. "We have what it takes to go up against this competition."
The Great American Seafood Cookoff is not only about showcasing the best a state has to offer; it's about seafood sustainability. When it comes to sustainability, Ahmed is the obvious choice, hands-down. Educated as a marine biologist, he has brought his knowledge of fishing stocks and fisheries management into the kitchen. "You will never see cod or haddock on my menu," he says. "I like to use pollock, it's an underutilized fish, and an excellent substitute for cod or haddock. It's just as good, but it is common in our waters."
Accordingly, Ahmed's planned menu not only makes the most of locally sourced, sustainable products, he's also built a menu around the theme of sustainability. He will be presenting "Pavé Of Parmesan & Curry Crusted Pollack" with pickled cauliflower, smoked artichokes, confit of fingerling potatoes, edamame, caramelized Point Judith squid, and bone marrow bordelaise. "We are doing an approach of past, present and future and how they can work in harmony to showcase a dish," says Ahmed. "Past is methods like braising sauteing, and frying of the pollock, the present is "sous vide" cooking as with the fingerling potatoes in duck fat, and finally the future is molecular gastronomy, which changes the texture, flavor and appearance of an item. I'm using a bone marrow powder in the bordelaise, which has the effect of turning the fat into a powder that presents well, then melts in your mouth."
In anticipation of some very stiff competition, Ahmed is leaving no stone unturned. The Hourglass will be closed the 2nd through the 4th for the event, and the week prior, he run through the preparation of his dish no less than three times for an audience. He expects honest, unvarnished reviews of the dish to ensure he goes into battle well-armed.
He is also seeking sponsorship, as expenses for preparation, travel and accommodations for himself and his assistant are expensive. Sponsors will get their company's signage at the event in the L.A. convention center—as well as the honor of representing Rhode Island with Ahmed. Call The Hourglass at 401/396-9811 if you can help.