Pot Luck

Uchi and Triniti Chefs To Represent Houston at International Pastry Competition

Two Houston-based pastry chefs will compete in the 4th Annual StarChefs.com International Pastry Competition in New York. Sharon Gofreed, of Uchi, and Samantha Mendoza, who works at Triniti, will join 18 other pastry chefs to show off their dessert skills.

The competition begins on September 29, with the pre-dessert elimination round. That will be followed on the next day by the plated dessert round. In the final competition, which takes place on October 1, three finalists will vie for the top prize.

Mendoza was recently selected as an alternate for the competition and has been working non-stop to make up for the lost prep time.

"I have been going in to work earlier than normal and just trying different recipes," she says. "I have tried eight different recipes for one thing. [I'm] trying to perfect it -- it's a lot of practice. I kind of know the process and I have been playing with a few ingredients that I don't use. I definitely want to have fun."

Although she has had less time to prepare for the competition than the other pastry chefs have, she isn't going to let it stop her from enjoying herself this weekend. Mendoza says she has heard a lot about the StarChefs.com competition and has always wanted to be in it.

Gofreed is also new to the competition, and says she is excited to see what her competitors will be doing and plans to bring some new ideas back to her restaurant.

The first round of the event is a pre-dessert, which is a two- or three-bite course utilizing a variety of flavor components, such as sweet, salty, and savory.

"I am going to do something with cherry, chocolate, lotus root and foie gras," Mendoza says. "I wanted to do something similar to a chocolate Frosty. My cousin and I always like to put our fries in our Frosty. Potato, chocolate, and something different -- it came out as a foie gras ice cream. Lotus root is similar to a potato chip when you fry it."

Even though dipping French fries into a chocolate Wendy's Frosty is a simple procedure, Mendoza explains that this dessert has been a bit difficult to perfect. "It kind of went into its own world," she says. "I have changed it a thousand times."

Gofreed will be using yogurt, cardamom, and Asian pears in her first dessert, along with locally-sourced balsamic vingar.

"The pear I am going to do both fresh and compressed. The yogurt I am making into a mousse," she says. "It is a flavor profile I like to play with. I find it very refreshing."

Ten competitors will be eliminated from the first round, leaving ten pastry chefs to compete in the second round, where they must use three of the specific ingredients provided to them to complete a plated dessert.

"I am still debating on which ingredients I am going to use," Mendoza says. "The dessert is probably going to be a mousse base and it is still a work in progress."

The three ingredients Gofreed will be using are chocolate, coconut and almonds, and she'll prepare a mousse cream with the chocolate and coconut, then encase it so that it oozes onto the plate when cut. An almond cake, almond tuile and coconut sorbet will complete the dessert.

Three pastry chefs will make it to the third round, where they will have to make a dessert including bonbons, a centerpiece and entremets, or side courses. The dessert must be 75 percent chocolate.

Because of the intricate detail involved in making each of the three components, Gofreed says this will be the most intimidating round.

"I have been practicing a lot of techniques I would like to do for the competition," she says. "We do a lot with chocolate at Uchi."

Mendoza feels confident about the bonbons because she makes them every day at Triniti.

"I feel so lucky to even be the alternate, so even if I don't make it past the first round I am excited just to be there," she says. "I am stressed out, but I am not going to over-stress. I just want to have fun."

The StarChefs champ will walk away with prizes including $5,000 in cash presented by PreGel America, a stage in a top pastry kitchen and a Montague electric convection oven.

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Molly Dunn
Contact: Molly Dunn