Local chef to compete in regional Pastry Chef of the Year competition

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published November 7, 2017

ROCHESTER — Royal Park Hotel executive pastry chef Mark Slessor has been named the American Culinary Federation of Michigan, Chefs de Cuisine Association, 2018 Pastry Chef of the Year.

Slessor, a Michigan native who has a deep passion for home-grown ingredients and a love for culinary arts, was nominated to compete in his chapter’s competition for the first time this year by a fellow association member, with only about a month to prepare.

“At first I was a little bit nervous, because normally this is something you practice for for a couple of months. So I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t have enough time to do my best,” Slessor said.

In the end, his citrus summer brown butter financier — a small French almond cake — was a judge favorite and came out on top, according to ACF officials. The dessert, he said, featured six intense, layered flavor profiles, including orange caramel, toffee nib crunch and raspberry foam, which complemented a pear poached in citrus segments, lavender and sauvignon blanc.

Slessor said he enjoys infusing flavors that no one else would expect or use.

“I always feel like I can do a little bit better, but I was very happy to win it,” he said.

ACF Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association Executive Director Brian F. Lorge said winning is a big accomplishment because the chapter is one of the largest in the nation, with over 450 members. He said the ACF Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association has the highest level of professional members, as well as the largest number of certified chefs at any level, including the largest number of certified executive chefs and certified master chefs.

“As a local chapter, we actually hold a full-on competition for these awards. We hold it exactly like an ACF-sanctioned competition. We have several master chefs come in and judge, and we have different judges for each category,” Lorge said. “It is a pretty big honor and a pretty big challenge in and of itself. This is not like a television show competition. This is much more serious and specific.”

Slessor will head to the 2018 ACF Central Region competition in February in Madison, Wisconsin — which will include competitions for Chef of the Year, Pastry Chef of the Year, Student Chef of the Year and a Student Team National Championship. The chefs who win their regional competitions — northeast, southeast, central and western — will move on to the national competition in July 2018 in New Orleans. The national 2018 USA Pastry Chef of the Year winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize.

Last year, Christopher Johnson — owner/executive chef of The Meeting House — was named the 2017 American Culinary Federation Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association Chef of the Year, snapped up the 2017 American Culinary Federation Central Region Chef of the Year award, and was one of two finalists in the 2017 USA’s Chef of the Year competition.

Slessor said Johnson’s competition accolades have drawn many to the Rochester area to dine, and he is hoping he can do the same as he competes.

“Last year, when he won, when his restaurant was full, we saw a lot of people come over and eat here at the Royal Park Hotel, and I thought it would be great to make Rochester even a better destination and not only return the favor to him, but to other companies,” Slessor said.

To learn more about ACF competitions, eligibility and rules, visit www.acfchefs.org/competitions.

The Royal Park Hotel is located at 600 E. University Drive in Rochester. For more information about the Royal Park Hotel, call (248) 652-2600.