cooking1Solid technique coupled with tasteful improvisational abilities.

These are some of the winning recipes from the Delray Beach Garlic Festival Professional Chef’s Competition. I won it 3 years running and retired when I relocated back to Chicago.

The way these particular recipes came to pass via the rules of the competition is that it’s basically a mystery basket that must include the key theme of garlic.

Two Chefs competing mano a mano.

One hour. Two talented assistants. They’d be the piano and bass to my drums on a bandstand. Crowds of a few hundred sitting on bleachers watching, while three M C’s deliver a running commentary.

No idea beforehand as to what the ingredients will be. Four judges for whom you make individual appetizers, entrees and, if you dare, dessert.

Talk about under a microscope.

alanhotchefI love the action. I do my best work when I’m inspired.

Jazz food.

Solid technique coupled with tasteful improvisational abilities.

Staggering when done correctly. When the planets are in alignment. A daunting task under the best of circumstances. Challenging, fun, intense, rewarding. It really stretches you.

To me, music, food and art share so many similarities. Texture, tempo, imagination and balance come immediately to my mind.

It’s all the same but in a different way.

So, once again, these were all made up on the spot. No clue as to what I could expect to be working with in advance.

Spontaneous momentum.

It’s been my good fortune to have spent my life playing Jazz and truly believe that this fact is what has given me a winning edge in this competition, not to mention life in general.

While some of my competitors may have visited, none have lived there.

The mystery ingredient this year was lobster. In the preceeding years it has been soft shell crab, monkfish and foie gras. Heres what I came up with on the fly:

Alan Lake, Dillon Kao and Blake Clevenger
Alan Lake, Dillon Kao and Blake Clevenger


Tempura of grilled lobster medallions over asian stir-fried vegs served over coconut risotto cake with cilantro and garlic chives with a coconut curry cream sauce w/garlic, ginger and lemon grass.

Stuffed poblano pepper with poached lobster, apples, walnut, maytag blue cheese, toasted pine nuts. wrapped it like a roulade and sliced it so it looked like sushi. served over aztech sucmytash of corn, onions, peppers, cactus leaf, hearts of palm, sweet vermouth, finished w/sweet butter. garnished w/arugala and served with a jalapeno tomatillo sauce.

Olive oil poached lobster claws w/garlic, served over sliced caramelized butternut squash w/sauted spinach and white asparagus w/garlic. roasted garlic lemon beurre blanc.

For dessert, floating islands. quenelles of italian meringue w/pureed lobster poached in garlic cream. 2 sauces, mango and kiwi, put in a bowl with sauces opposite ea other in triangular patterns w/the quenelle in the middle. garnished w/an orange segment dipped in a blueberry coulis finished w/hazelnut liquor and butter.