December 19th, 2011

San Antonio Paella Challenge

Paella Challenge
Ted Lawrence ’86 at the Paella Challenge

A Family Affair

Ted Lawrence ’86 no longer works in the foodservice industry. He joined Mircrosoft in 1995 and then opened his own consulting business in 2006. Microsoft is currently his best customer. So how did he end up competing in the 2nd Annual Paella Challenge in San Antonio, TX? The Internet, a magazine, and a visit to the CIA’s Hyde Park campus inspired the move. First, he reconnected with his CIA roommate Hugh Lowenstein ’85 on Facebook. Then he saw the article about the 2010 Paella Challenge in mise en place. But it was attending the 2010 Alumni Homecoming at the Hyde Park campus that sealed the deal for him. “The CIA has that aura that just brings food to life. It’s still a magical place,” Ted explained. He thought the Paella Challenge would be a great place to have some fun while helping to raise money for the CIA Scholarship Fund. He felt so inspired he went out to buy a new chef’s jacket!

“I was fortunate to have a very special team in place for the Paella Challenge,” Ted said. “Hugh was my sous chef, and my extended family—15 strong, including five nieces, ages four to 24—was well represented. We rented a ranch south of San Antonio, which came with two indoor and one outdoor kitchen. On Saturday, everyone had a specific job. Crawfish was picked in one kitchen. Shrimp was peeled and deveined at the outdoor kitchen. Pork was roasted on one ‘barbie,’ while peppers roasted on another. It was a fun, family event.”

Ted wanted to create a dish that was appropriate to the Texas venue, so he smoked his pork roast over mesquite to provide some background flavor for his Gulf Shrimp and Crawfish Paella. Additional flavor came from a mélange of peppers, tomato concassé, calabaza squash, and sweet white onions. Both Bomba and wild rice provided the signature component, and it was all brought to life with a rich seafood stock.

In front of a crowd of more than 2,500, San Antonio chef Jeff Balfour, of Citrus restaurant in the Hotel Valencia, took first prize. John Besh ’92 along with Steven McHugh ’97, executive chef at Besh’s Lüke Restaurant on the Riverwalk, took second. Chef Jhohans Priego of Veracruz, Mexico snagged third place. While Ted didn’t win a trophy, he came away feeling like a winner. He’d had a great time renewing his passion for cooking, while spending a unique and exciting time with his family.

Special thanks go out to Johnny Hernandez ’89, chef/owner of La Gloria Ice House, who organized the event with the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to benefit education programs.