Among the hundreds of hardworking chefs in the Capital Region, there are three that stand out: DaleMiller of Jack’s Oyster House in Albany; Widjiono (Yono) Purnomo of Yono’s Restaurant at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Albany; and Anand Jayapal (A.J.) of The Edison Club in Rexford. Well known to one another, these men share a passion for food, a flair for presentation and a fondness for camaraderie. They also love to compete, be it as a team or individually.
In fact, it was Certified Executive Chef Purnomo, a native of Jakarta, Indonesia, who brought culinary competition to Albany 15 years ago with his Culinary Cornucopia, an American Culinary Federation certified competition that benefits after school programs at Living Resources. And although Purnomo has since entrusted control of the competition to Certified Master Chef Miller, he has not lost his eye for spotting aspiring chefs eager to learn their craft.
“I like to train young people to be competitive worldwide,” said Purnomo. For him, knowledge should not be kept a secret. “What good amI if I’m not sharing my knowledge?”
Purnomo trained at Academy Perhotelan Negara (APN) in Indonesia. Among his many awards and achievements, he serves as a judge in local competitions and has been featured on the Today Show and Food Network. He has also presented his cuisine to sold-out audiences at Manhattan’s famed James Beard House.
Friends and mentors
The three men met through the American Culinary Federation when Chef Jayapal was a student enrolled in culinary classes at Schenectady County Community College.
Upon returning from an internship at the Kentucky Derby, Purnomo asked Jayapal to join the seven-member “New York State Culinary Team, Albany!” to compete in the 1998 Hotelympia “Le Parade des Chefs” competition in London.
“I saw a kid with potential,” said Purnomo. The Hotelympia event attracts talented chefs from all the over world. Under the direction of Purnomo, the Albany team had to put out 100 five-course meals in one hour. Their hard work was rewarded with a bronze medal. In 2002, they added another bronze.
With enough confidence under his belt, Jayapal competed in Hotelympia again in 2006, this time on his own. He competed in three categories—seafood, duck and pasta—which required him to create two dishes per hour in each category. Despite the “unbelievable pressure,” Jayapal came home with three merits. Not bad for an electrician who went to culinary school on a whim.
“I figured I’d learn how to make Thanksgiving dinner,” said Jayapal, whomoved to the US from India when he was 13. He credits Miller and Purnomo for their encouragement over the years, calling them his mentors.
Throughout his career, he has worked for both men, and was even encouraged by Miller to leave Jack’s when he was recruited by the Albany Pump Station to design their kitchen and work as a chef. Since then, he’s moved onto The Edison Club and started marketing his own barbecue sauce four years ago— Miss Sydney’s Family Recipe. “I got very lucky that Dale and Yono took me under their wings,” he said.
A taste of competition
Like Purnomo,Miller is not only a generousmentor, but an incredible chef in his own right A 1979 Culinary Institute of America graduate, he has been wowing patrons at Jack’s for nine years. Prior to that, he owned and operated Stone End’s Restaurant in Glenmont for 12 years.
He is one of 60 Certified Master Chefs in the country and the only one in Upstate New York. In addition, he is the only area chef to compete in the Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung (IKA) Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany in 2004, where he took home a Silver Medal. “It’s a humbling experience to be among such incredible talent,” saidMiller, who was one of six chefs on the New York Culinary Team.
He credits his mother for his love of cooking, which he discovered at age five. By age 11, he was already running his own wedding cake business in his hometown of Tribes Hill, NY. But inspiration also came from humbler sources, like watching his aunt’s vegetables go from seedling to garden to dinner plate.
Miss Sydney’s Soaked Pork tenderloin, Beet Juice & Red Wine Couscous and Apple Fennel Slaw
- 1 pork tenderloin, cut into 8 medallions & Marinated in Miss Sydney’s Original Marinade for at least 1 hour
- 1 cup beet juice (Either two large red beets in a juicer or use juice from two cans of red beets)
- 2 green apples
- 2 fennel, sliced thin
- 1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 cup uncooked couscous
- 1 cup red wine
2. Sear the pork tenderloin in a hot pan on
both sides and finish in the oven for about 10 minutes. 3. While pork is cooking, combine beet juice & red win in a pot & bring to a boil.
4. Pour beet juice & red wine over the uncooked couscous & steep (cover it) for 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
5. As couscous steeps, julienne (slice thinly) the apple & fennel combine with mayo to create coleslaw. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
6. Fluff the couscous with a fork & season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
7. To plate, scoop out couscous, followed by the apple fennel slaw. Then add the pork.
Yields 2 servings.