After the day one results in Frankfurt, the New England Culinary Olympic Team was truly energized. Mickey Beriau and Danny Varano had set the bar very high with their gold medal performances. This now became everyone’s goal and the team would rally behind each chef preparing to show.
We were not free of issues that would throw us a curve ball. I had mentioned how easy it was to get through customs on our way into Germany. That changed when they apparently read our manifests and realized that our team had brought in some proteins that were banned in Europe. We were, of course, unaware of this until they threatened to confiscate our supplies and maybe even hold us in custody. Thanks to our team manager – Tony Flory and team captain Roland Czekelius (both born in Austria) and their diplomacy we reached an agreement. Some items were discarded and customs assigned an agent to insure that each day after judging we would discard everything from our presentation tables. Additionally an important part of our pastry displays was to be sugar work under huge, custom made glass domes. These domes arrived in Germany from the manufacturer cracked. Another adjustment was in order.
Despite these set-backs the team continued to work 20 hours a day executing our programs and doing so with high expectations.
Each day brought more excitement as chef after chef was awarded a gold medal for his performance. Joe Faria worked through a stomach bug, a few items on our programs didn’t work out as planned so the team rallied to help with solutions, sleepless nights began to take their toll as evidenced by the state of the kitchen we were using each morning (the chef of the facility was beginning to regret his generosity), and it appeared that a few of our finished items in coolers found their way on to platters presented by the Austrian Team with whom we shared the kitchen. Through this, the team continued to exceed everyone’s expectations.
In the end, the team walked away with 19 gold medals, 1 silver, 1 bronze and recognition as the overall best team competing in the Culinary Olympics that year. The day that the team walked onto the stage to receive this recognition was, by far, the most exhilarating accomplishment of my professional career. Each chef: Roland Czekelius, Mickey Beriau, Danny Varano, George Higgins, Neil Connolly, Lars Johansson, Walter Zuromski, Charles Carroll, Joe Faria and myself would be changed forever.
What was most satisfying was how the team evolved from a group of individuals to a cohesive team. We respected each other’s abilities, complemented each other’s weaknesses, supported each other’s efforts, honestly critiqued each other’s work followed with help and advice on how to improve, took great joy in each other’s accomplishments but most importantly placed the team before the individual.
I have, over the years, used this model of unity and performance in everything that I have attempted, with every organization that I have worked for and with every individual who has worked beside me.
The picture on this post is that of Anton Flory, Certified Master Chef and manager of our team who set the tone for our accomplishments, mentored each of us, and supported our work in any way that he could. Whether we needed someone to brunoise a vegetable, slice a terrine, polish a platter or wash a pot, Anton was there.
Tomorrow’s post will complete the story and reflect on 25 years later for Team New England.