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Flushing chef whips up top prize in cooking competition

By Kevin Zimmerman

This past spring, Flushing resident Alexis Chamoff received the American Culinary Federation’s Northeast Region Student Chef of the Year Award. Chamoff, who recently graduated from SUNY Delhi with a degree in culinary-arts management, heads to Las Vegas next month to compete in the national championship.

As she prepares for the next competition, Chamoff took time to answer a few questions from TimesLedger Newspapers.

What were you thinking when they announced you as the winner?

The person who gave the award had asked each of the students who competed to stand up, so they called me and the others. I remember I was holding one of the other chefs’ hands and being so nervous. Right when they said my name a huge rush of excitement came to my face and I really couldn’t believe it. All I thought of was Vegas!

What did you make for the competition?

For the regional competition I made a chicken trio, roasted chicken breast, savory Maghreb spiced tart, petite roulade, spring vegetables, and a port-hedgehog mushroom pan sauce. I wasn’t comfortable with that dish until I had practiced a lot of times, but once I had gone to the competition I had done it at least 20 times to make it perfect.

You said your interest in cooking came during high school when you and your brother would watch Food Network shows. Did you start making the things you saw on TV right away?

Yeah, me and my brother would just watch it and make it right away because we would both be hungry after school. Honestly, I think risotto was the first thing that I really made that was actually delicious and everyone enjoyed.

You head to the nationals in July, how are you preparing for that?

The nationals are in July and right now I am up at school in Delhi, N.Y. practicing this new dish and I am really feeling the pressure a lot more now. I know that I’ll be even more nervous when the time comes but I’m going to try to keep it cool.

You are working as a garde-manger [a chef who prepares the menu’s cold dishes] at Tolani now, what are your future plans? Would you like to open your own restaurant?

I really don’t know what the future holds for me. I know that me being in this competition will definitely open a lot of great opportunities. I would like to continue to work somewhere in the city and grow. I would like to open my own restaurant someday, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

What do you like about being a chef? What do you not like about it?

What I like about being a chef is that when your food is good, everyone will know you. They will spread the word about you and make you look good. I love to try new things and going to this school and having really knowledgeable teachers really gets you thinking. Probably the only thing about a chef not to like are the hours you work. After you’ve done it awhile, though, your feet will be numb and your eyes will be wide open all the time.

What is your favorite meal?

My favorite meal is burritos. I love all the fillings and different toppings you can choose.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure food?

My guilty pleasure food is probably mini cannolis.

Reach news editor Kevin Zimmerman by email at kzimmerman@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4541

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