Sustainably Caught Tuna Cooking Contestby Mariana Ramos Sánchez, Director of the Pacific Alliance for Sustainable TunaJune 22nd, 2015

Sustainably Caught Tuna Cooking Contest

Mariana Ramos, Director of PAST, poses Pati Jinich (bottom left) and the winning team following the competition.

On June 6, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., and represent the Alliance at a Top-Chef style cooking competition in collaboration with L’Academie de Cuisine.L’Academie de Cuisine is a world-class, private institution of higher culinary learning, a boutique, professional cooking school where the art and science of cooking in fine dining kitchens is taught by renowned instructors.

All Alliance member companies sent a variety of tuna products to the cooking school and challenged the students to create two appetizers and two entrées that incorporated the various types of tuna. The five teams of students ranged from two to four had a four hours to create their dishes and strategize how to use the frozen, canned, dried or pouched Mexican tuna in every dish. Once the clock ran out, it was time to begin the judging!

Arriving well before the competition began, I got to see firsthand how talented these students are. I assumed that they were all skilled chefs, but some were only a few months into their courses! To say I was impressed is an understatement. When it was time to begin, I stood alongside Chef Jake Lydon from L’Academie and Pati Jinich, host of PBS television show Pati’s Mexican Table, to judge the competition.

Both judges were amazing and gave great insight into Mexican cooking, advanced culinary techniques, and identified complex flavors. We were all wowed by the variety of dishes the students presented to us and all of the judges praised the ingenuity and incredible culinary techniques of the students.

In front of dignitaries from the Mexican Embassy, friends and family, five rounds of delicious tastings ensued before the judges were able to select a winning team. This team’s dishes were above and beyond in presentation and flavor, making Mexican tuna stand out as the quality ingredient that it is. The winning team presented a menu of mini tuna cakes, spicy tuna empanadas, quinoa with tuna and roast vegetables, seared tuna with udon noodles and stir fried bok choy with ponzu sauce. It was delicious!

I was informed half way through the competition that Pati had graduated from L’Academie herself. With this knowledge, it was clear where she had formed many of her skills and got me excited to see where these current students will go in their career. The sky is the limit for these students! All participants received a signed copy of Pati’s cookbook and an apron provided by the Embassy, while the winning team won chef’s fish knives and the opportunity to cater an event at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C. on September 17, 2015.

Aside from the tuna fish cakes, the tuna eggs benedict, tuna ravioli in lobster sauce and even the tuna casserole, I was taken aback by how receptive these students were to our cause and their enthusiasm to work with these products again. This was such an amazing opportunity for the Alliance to showcase the versatility and quality of their products and I am extremely grateful for their hospitality and energy.

I greatly look forward to working with Pati and seeing these students again in the coming year! Be sure to check out some winning recipes that have been added to our resources page!