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The taste of competition
While athletes battle in China, one local chef prepares for greatness in the world food arena
Daryl Shular, corporate executive chef at Performance Food Group-Milton's in Oakwood, competes in the Culinary Olympics in October.


Daryl Shular talks about what inspired him to be a chef.

While Olympic athletes in Beijing are gulping down raw eggs and making sure they're eating their Wheaties, Gainesville chef Daryl Shular is chopping, dicing and cooking his way to the Olympics.

OK, Shular didn't trek to China this summer. Instead, he's heading to the 2008 Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung (International Culinary Art Competition) in October in Erfurt, Germany.

"It's one of the largest chef competitions in the world," said Shular, who also is the corporate executive chef at Performance Food Group-Milton's in Oakwood.

"If you are lucky to make the Culinary Olympic team you are at the top of your profession," he added. "Once you are on the team, you are so much more advanced than anyone else; you typically are going to make the team again. They encourage you to stay to build that team tradition."

In the last Culinary Olympics in 2004 - before Shular made the team - the U.S. team placed third. So hopes are high for a run at a medal.

"There's three teams, we have one team which is the national team and that consists of three chefs and a pastry chef," Shular said. "Then we have two regional teams."

Shular, a member of the regional team, has teammates who are spread across the United States.

The American Culinary Federation's culinary regional team manager is Jill Bosich, an instructor at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif., and owner of Cowgirl Cookie Co. in Newport Beach, Calif.

"Every team member has a different table that they are responsible for," said Bosich, who will not compete but is the team coach. "Even though it is shown cold, they use hot and cold cooking techniques.

"The regional team in 2004 came in third place as did the regional team in 2000. We've always been in the top three so this team is hoping to break that barrier and go for No. 1."

Bosich added that the team will feature the best of American cuisine from the regions that the teammates hail from.

Other teammates include Christopher Desens, who is the executive chef at The Racquet Club Ladue in St. Louis, Mo.; Scott Fetty is the chef instructor at the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute in Pittsburgh; and Randy Torres serves as the department chairman of culinary arts at the Professional Culinary Institute in Campbell, Calif. The pastry chef for the team is Loan Co, who is the pastry chef at the San Francisco Marriott.

"I can't even explain how good it is, one term on the team is equivalent to 10 years industry experience," said Shular, who has been a member of the U.S. Culinary Olympic team since 2005. "When I tried out there was only four spots, so just imagine the odds of you making one out of four spots, out of hundreds of other chefs that have tried out."

Shular added that the competition will last four days and the team has been preparing for a year and a half.

"What we have to do is what we call hot food cold, and what we have to do is all displays. (We) show work, craftsmanship and it's pretty intense because they scrutinize everything you do," he said.

Which shouldn't be hard for Shular, according to Desens.

"He's (Shular) amazing to work with," Desens said. "He's extremely creative and he just doesn't back down; he's not afraid of anything. He's made transitions for different parts of our team program and he just doesn't bat an eye."

The U.S. team has been practicing for a year and a half in San Francisco for the prestigious competition.

Shular, who lives in Alpharetta, has his Olympic hopes but he also makes his work at PFG-Milton's a top priority.

"Everybody calls me and look at their menu," he said. "I go all over the city and the Southeast and I help do training for their staff, look at menu operations, look at how they do things and give them my personal advice."

And since Shular arrived at PFG-Milton's about 18 months ago, the company has made a transformation.

"Daryl is certainly one of the most talented chefs that I've worked with in my career," said Tom Dowling, vice president of sales at PFG-Milton's. "I really believe that he has brought a culinary atmosphere to PFG-Milton's. With his help, today we believe we are not in the distribution business but we are in the hospitality industry, and his culinary expertise has gotten us there."

Shular began at the Art Institute of Atlanta in 1992 where he trained to become a classical French chef. He has worked at hotels and restaurants throughout Atlanta along with teaching at the Art Institute of Atlanta for about six years.

From his training he has become an expert in many areas, and said he hopes to become a master chef one day. But he really loves to stick to his classical training.

"I have the entire world of cooking cuisine to concentrate on," Shular said. "What I like the most is seafood; I love all the different types of shellfish, I love all the game items,, that is really fun for me. I love cooking over flame and grilling."

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