Virginia Western Community College Chef Ted Polfelt is preparing to compete at the highest levels of international competition as part of the American Culinary Federation’s Culinary Team USA. This team assembles an elite cadre of chefs who train and compete over the course of four years. The Villeroy & Boch Culinary World Cup, held once every four years, will take place in Luxembourg on Nov. 25-30, 2022. Team USA has been practicing monthly around the country to prepare, including at Virginia Western in March 2022.
Chef Polfelt’s many certifications and honors include being named ACF’s Chef of the Year for the Southeast Region in 2016, and progressing through three rigorous rounds of tryouts before being named to the ACF National Culinary Team USA 2024. Polfelt is a full-time faculty member in the Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program at Virginia Western Community College, and members of the program will be joining him in Luxembourg to support the team, along with tens of thousands of visitors to the event. Polfelt is excited to bring lessons learned from this experience back to his students.
“Having Chef Ted Polfelt compete for Team USA on a global stage is an honor for our college and brings global exposure to our well-recognized culinary arts program,” said Yvonne Campbell, Dean of Business, Technology and Trades. “We are excited for him as he undertakes this remarkable journey, and recognize the skill and hard work it took for him to reach this level of competition. Sending him and Team USA’s supporters from Virginia Western really brings the world back to our campus.”
In the Culinary World Cup competition in Luxembourg, the teams will work in 20-by-20-foot kitchen “boxes” that are arranged around a 900-seat dining room, the Restaurant of Nations. Teams prepare a three-course meal for 110 reserved seats with the utmost precision. Everything must be choreographed perfectly under the scrutiny of judges who are in the upper echelons of world chefs. Teams must have careful strategies and materials, such as compostable spoons, stocked in their kitchen in order to meet stringent rules to prevent waste.
Team USA will later compete in February 2024 at the IKA “Culinary Olympics” in Stuttgart, Germany, in a culmination of their work and training on the 2024 team. Polfelt and fellow Virginia Western professor Chef John Schopp attended the 2016 competition to watch Team USA compete. There were 57 national teams with 2,000 individual competitors. Concurrent with the competition, a culinary trade show drew a quarter of a million people.
The dishes prepared by the competitors are “what shapes the next generation of food,” Schopp said. The innovative ideas presented by these elite teams filter down and are implemented at different levels of restaurants and culture over time. The process leaves lasting impressions on the competitors as well – Schopp said that four years on the Olympic team is equivalent to 10 years of high-end restaurant experience.
Many of the other national teams receive vocal support from large teams of boosters in attendance, or in some cases, financial support from home countries such as Sweden that allows team members to prepare full time for the competition. A small contingent of supporters including Chef Schopp will be present to support Chef Polfelt and his teammates in Luxembourg.
The chefs at Virginia Western want to inspire students to “go big and come back” – to see the world and absorb big ideas, then return to their community and the professional network available through the Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program. Team USA’s monthly practices are part of the effort to build up the next generation of chefs. Colleges such as Virginia Western sponsor the practices, and the chefs in turn conduct demonstrations for the student body at each host site. Students get “to see the intensity,” and for some students, “it’s like a light switch went off,” Polfelt said. “It’s a very humbling thing to be a part of.”
The chefs’ travel for the event is supported by the Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program Fund, which is managed by the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation.