Hanah chef competing for top culinary honors

By Pauline Liu 
Ashleigh Germond, executive chef at Hanah Mountain Resort & Spa in Margaretville, has taken on a new challenge. The 28-year-old Stamford resident wants to be the region’s top chef.
On April 28, she will be in Niagra to compete for American Culinary Federation Northeast Region Chef of the Year. Right now, she is the only woman in a field of four semi-finalists vying for the prestigious title.

“I’m a little nervous,” she said. “I’m very confident in my cooking abilities. It’s all a matter of whether I can get finished on time and get it executed the way that I intended to.”

Since Germond took over the kitchen at Hanah three years ago, things have changed. She calls her style of cooking, “New  American,” which places emphasis on simplicity and the use of fresh herbs and flavorful sauces. She is proud that business for both the restaurant and banquets increased significantly during her first year on the job.

According to Germond, during some months business surged by as much as 300 percent.
“People want to eat here now,” she said. “The food is good.” 

Germond, who graduated from SUNY Delhi’s Culinary Arts Program in 2005, was nominated for the competition by Tom Recinella, the program’s director. He’s also president of the local ACF chapter. After Germond was selected as a semi-finalist in late February, she immediately began planning her entree for the competition. All four chefs are required to create a fish entree, using Arctic Char. 
Since minutes count in the competition, Germond has spent the past couple of weeks repeatedly making the same entree, in an effort shave time in her preparation. The winning chef must prepare four portions of the same entree in an hour. Germond has been able to reduce her prep time to under an hour.

This will be the second time that Germond has been to an ACF competition. In 2005, she was nominated as top student chef for the region, but Germond explained that she lost the competition, because her dish had too many ingredients and it took her too long to prepare.

“I bit off way more than I could chew,” she said.
She calls the sumptuous looking entree, which she created for the current contest, “Arctic Char Terrine with Spring Flavors.” In a preparation that is similar to pâté, there are chopped scallops, rock shrimp, heavy cream, and egg whites  between two layers of fish fillets.  A fish-skin chip  serves as a garnish.

“It’s a fish-tasting potato chip,” Germond explained.
The dish also includes her own whole grain, mustard, bacon and herb gnocchi, sautéed asparagus, ramps, carrots and morel mushrooms. 

According to Germond, sauces are her specialty. For the competition, her entree will be topped with an asparagus and preserved lemon sauce of her own creation.
“It’s not heavy,” she said. “It’s a nice spring dish. I love asparagus and lemon. I think morel, ramps and asparagus work well. They should all enhance each other. I’m very confident in the dish.”

For those who would like to try the entree, which Germond hopes will win her accolades, she has created a simplified version of it for Hanah’s restaurant menu.
“There are no morel mushrooms, because that would make the dish too expensive for the customers,” she said. 

If Germond wins the regional competition, she will advance to the national competition in Florida this summer for a shot at the ACF title of Top Chef of the Year. She was among the chefs featured in the March issue of the National Culinary Review.