Culinary Team USA at Dogwood

Published 6:05 pm Sunday, March 11, 2012

Steve Jilleba, Unilever Food Solutions corporate executive chef in Lisle, Ill., manages Culinary Team USA appearing May 18 at the Dogwood FIne Arts Festival. This is the third year for culinary arts at Dogwood. The ACF Culinary Olympics occurs every four years in Germany.

Steve Jilleba, Unilever Food Solutions corporate executive chef and American Culinary Federation Culinary Team USA manager, visited Dowagiac Friday in advance of the team’s appearance May 18 at Dogwood Fine Arts Festival.
Jilleba, who will be the master of ceremonies, scouted the facilities at the middle school Performing Arts Center and ate lunch at Foodies before returning to the Chicago area.
Four chefs on two stages “will kind of go back and forth,’ Jilleba said while munching on a big cheeseburger. “Appetizer, salad, entree. Dishes that are popular where they work, but we’re still finalizing that.”
The American Culinary Federation, or ACF, has been the largest group of professional culinarians in America for more than 80 years.
ACF, which has a chapter in South Bend, Ind., is home to the team for national and international culinary competition against 38 nations.
ACF Culinary Team USA is comprised of a national team, a regional team, a military team and a youth team, each of which will represent the United States at the 2012 International Lochkunest Ausstellung (IKA) International Culinary Exhibition, also known as the Culinary Olympics, in Erfurt, Germany.
“Right now, we’re practicing once a month,” Jilleba said of chefs scattered from St. Louis to Boston. “It comes in two parts — a ‘buffet’ with appetizers, entrees and pastries and the other part is a three-course restaurant setting for 110 people that really has nothing to do with the demonstration here. It’s a big event. It’s basically a culinary festival. We’re doing ‘American cuisine’ with Alaskan cod and beef. It’s a melting pot of a lot of different foods, but believe it or not, there is an American cuisine, just as there are regional cuisines. That might come into the demo naturally.”
Jilleba also does advance work of the competition site. “I’ve scoped that out. We have a group of probably 30 people going over” who made a three-year commitment.
Judging is done by an experienced international group, the World Association of Chefs, which sets guidelines.
Jilleba grew up in New York and cooking is “all I ever wanted to do. I did a high school program. It’s not an easy business, but there are plenty of jobs if you’re good. I went to the Culinary Institute in New York. I travel a lot for work. Monday I go to Texas.
“From Texas, I go to Charlotte for practice for three days. I’ve not been to this part of Michigan before, but we did a restaurant makeover contest in Madison Heights and there’s a chef’s conference coming up in April in Detroit.”