Student Chefs Compete in Culinary Clash

By Tyler Breisacher

Aspiring City College chefs got the chance to step out of the classroom and into a high-end kitchen, cooking a three-course meal at the Nob Hill Club in the Mark Hopkins hotel.

The opportunity was part of Culinary Clash, a competition that InterContinental Hotels has run for nine years. The duo, head chef Tina Tian and sous chef Justin Griffin, is one of several pairs of student chefs who will be designing a customized menu and serving it at InterContinental hotels over the next several weeks.

Sous chef, Justin Griffin (center), explains the dessert he has created for a panel of judges at City College’s annual Culinary Clash competition. The event was held at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins’ Nob Hill Club and included the City College Culinary Department’s Chef Instructor, Keith Hammerich. March 7, 2020. Photo by Jennifer Yin/The Guardsman.

As an appetizer, they served Hamachi Crudo with slices of citrus, on a chive aioli. “We wanted our menu to reflect our team so we trusted ideas that were connected to our homes,” the team explained. “The appetizer is fresh, colorful and uses local ingredients like Fresno chilis and California citrus.”

The freshness of the Hamachi Crudo, the sweetness of the citrus, the creaminess of the aioli, made from a chive-infused olive oil, and a hint of pepper combined for a delicious appetizer that was “elegant and simple, like the town of Ventura where Justin is from,” as the chefs put it.

The entrée was a bright and colorful take on a traditional Chinese recipe called Dongpo Rou: slices of very tender pork belly accompanied by a carrot puree and slices of watermelon radish to add splashes of bright orange and pink to the plate, reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss illustration. 

Sous chef, Justin Griffin, creates a rose champagne sorbet, topped with Thai lemon curd, Urfa fiber tulip, and served with a side of brandy soaked strawberry. Griffin’s dessert was all the rage during City College’s 9th annual Culinary Clash competition held at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins’ Nob Hill Club. March 7, 2020. Photo by Jennifer Yin/The Guardsman.

“It’s a dish my family loves during holidays that is not as well known here, and we wanted to share it with some changes of our own,” Tian said. “We included red dates and goji berries which in addition to the medicinal properties add a great sweet flavor. We also added miso and sake to give more depth.”

For dessert, the team served a refreshing rose champagne sorbet, with a long thin tuile on top. Of course the chefs couldn’t end the meal on such a simple note without adding a couple of interesting twists. On one end of the tuile were three tiny dots of lemon curd, each topped with a petite basil leaf. The other end was sprinkled with black pepper, adding a surprising but welcome kick to the dessert.

KC Suraj (right), Gabriela Razura (center right), Tina Tian (center left), Chad Bayless (left), congregate before they dinner service during City College’s annual Culinary Clash at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins’ Nob Hill Club. March 7, 2020. Photo by Jennifer Yin/The Guardsman

The whole experience was “stressful and nerve-wracking, but it was totally worth it,” Tian said. “We cannot stress how grateful we are to have this rare opportunity to learn, grow, and build our portfolio in such a fun and creative way.”

In total, ten students will compete in Culinary Clash events, leading up to the Ultimate Culinary Clash on May 6. The head chef of the winning team will receive a $5,000 scholarship and the sous chef will receive a $2,500 scholarship.

The Guardsman