Photo: Keith Ferris, the Culinary Institute of America
Slashfood spent a few minutes talking with Kent about his recent nomination to the team.
How do you formulate a strategy?
JK: For the finals competition, Chef Humm of Eleven Madison Park was a great mentor in helping to steer us in the right direction. We focused on both taste and presentation and refined a bunch of dishes until we came up with a salmon and lamb platter that we felt great about. We are going to do the same thing for the international competition, but this time, with the support of the Bocuse d'Or USA Foundation, its Culinary Council and of course, Eleven Madison Park behind us. Once we determine the dishes, it'll be all about perfecting them and getting the preparation down to a science in 5 1/2 hours.
How do you plan to stand out, do things differently than the other competitors?
JK: My plan is to cook food that I'm passionate about. America has become such a leader in the global dining scene – we are home to some of the best restaurants in the world and I'm fortunate enough to work at one of New York City's few four-star restaurants -- so I want my cooking to be representative of the refined, elegant and interesting food of the U.S.
Are you going to attempt anything crazy, anything that no one's done before?
JK: We definitely want to impress and surprise the judges in Lyon, and part of that is being innovative and presenting something they've never seen before. There is a certain style and certain parameters involved in the international competition that all of us must remain within, but there is definitely room for creativity and inventiveness.
Is a full year of lead time too much? Do you start to overthink things?
JK: A full year of lead time is a blessing! Team USA 2009 only had three months to prepare, and I can't imagine the pressure in that situation. The more time we have to train, plan and prepare, the greater our chances are of reaching the podium in 2011.
Is there anyone in the competition you're particularly excited to work with?
JK: It's an honor to be able to work so closely with the foundation's board of directors – chef Daniel Boulud, chef Thomas Keller and Jerome Bocuse – and their entire Culinary Council. It's comprised of some of the most esteemed leaders in the industry and more well-regarded chefs throughout the country. It feels incredible to have their guidance and support throughout the coming year.
Who do you think is going to be tough to beat?
JK: I'm not really worrying too much about the competition, at this point. It's all about staying focused on the work we have cut out for us. Right now, my commis Tom Allan and I are competing against no one but ourselves.