ASHEVILLE, NC – Daniel Gorman, an A-B Tech graduate and a sous chef at Cherokee Town Club in Atlanta, has achievements and awards that are the envy of chefs twice his age. But his impressive culinary career almost never happened.
“When I was in high school, I had planned to go to Chapel Hill for business. That was my big goal,” Gorman said. “At the last minute, I decided I didn’t want to sit behind a desk all day.”
In 2007, Gorman was a member of the A-B Tech student culinary team that won the American Culinary Federation’s (ACF) national competition two months after he graduated. Three years later, he was named the Southeast Region Student Chef of the Year and National Student Chef of the Year.
This summer, Gorman, 23, won the Hans Bueschkens World Junior Chefs Challenge semifinals for the Americas, leading the ACF to dub him the “best young chef in the Americas.” He will compete in South Korea for the right to be called the best young chef in the world in May 2012.
During the June competition, junior chefs had four hours to produce eight portions of a three-course meal (appetizer, main course and dessert) featuring a list of required ingredients. A panel of judges evaluated the contestants’ performance and menus and determined Gorman to be the winner.
Gorman practiced 30 hours a week to prepare for the competition, in addition to the 50 hours a week he put in as sous chef at Cherokee. “It’s an honor big time. It’s exciting to take the next step. I didn’t expect to go all the way,” he said.
Canada placed second, earning a silver medal, and Chile placed third and took home a bronze medal. Chefs from Ecuador and Venezuela also competed in the Americas challenge during the Canadian Culinary Federation’s 2011 National Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Gorman’s menu focused on his own style of food, which he calls “New American with a focus on Southern cuisine.” His winning menu consisted of Kobe flat iron steak with red onion jam, asparagus salad, herb yogurt and Parmesan lavosh; buttermilk-braised halibut with pink-eyed pea cake, fava bean purée, corn relish and mustard gastrique; and strawberry cheesecake with a margarita cake inside, mint sauce, strawberry compote, and strawberry soda with sour strawberry bubbles.
Gorman won’t find out until March what cuisine he needs to prepare for the World Junior Chef title, so he is working on a budget to pay for trip until then. “I will have to take an apprentice and my coaches. I also want to take my mom, who has been so supportive. I am figuring it will cost $30,000,” he said. “I have a lot of good mentors, (Chefs) Kevin Walker and Heather Hurlbert, and 16 cooks behind me that support me at Cherokee Town Club.” The ACF and Custom Culinary, Inc. also support him.
“South Korea is going to be interesting. It will be an extreme change in environment. I will have to have a translator,” Gorman said. “I am nervous about competing against chefs all over the world.”