Executive Sous Chef at CRAVE Restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland, Manuel “Manny” Rodriguez, recently won the judges’ choice and people’s choice at the Embassy Chef Challenge on May 20, 2015 representing the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Washington, D.C.
The 7th annual Embassy Chef Challenge
to benefit Cultural Tourism DC
gives the public access to one of DC’s best-kept secrets: world-class embassy chefs. A dozen embassy chefs presents small plates showcasing their country’s signature delicacies and battle in DC’s Premier International Culinary Competition.
Chef talks about his award-winning dish, Back to Life:
Chef discusses his passion for cooking from a young age:
I am originally from Venezuela. I fell in love with cooking when I was five. My grandmother, from Spain, and my mom were a huge influence in my cooking career. I still remember the first time my mom taught me how to poach an egg. I would wake up on Sundays at 6am and start making breakfast for myself while my parents were still sleeping. While growing up, I went with my mom to the farmers market to pick up vegetables, fruit, and fresh cheeses. It was then when I knew I wanted to be a Chef.
From Venezuela to the States:
I moved to the United States on May 4th, 2002 to go to college. I completed my first year at the University of West Florida in Pensacola-Florida. After a year I moved to Maryland and lived with my aunt who owns a Cuban restaurant, “Cubanos”. I worked at Cubanos full time and attended school full time at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Washington. I worked in the front and back of house at Cubanos for five years. The restaurant was my playground as a chef. While in school I also worked at several other well known restaurants in the city like 1789 in Georgetown and as a Chef at the U.S Capitol where I had the chance to cook for President Obama twice!
Bringing his talents to the Embassy:
I have worked as a cook for the Venezuelan Embassy’s Independence day celebration event, and have been competing in the Embassy’s Chef Challenge since I was in culinary school. I have won a bronze, two silver and two gold medals over the years. Last year the Embassy of Venezuela invited me to compete to represent Venezuela at the Embassy Chef Challenge Competition as their Sous Chef. This year the Embassy of Venezuela invited me as their Executive Chef. It was an honor for me take on such an amazing challenge.
Voted Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice Winner:
“Back to Life” originated is the coasts of Venezuela, and is composed of squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels, oyster, clams, and scallops in a light tomato sauce, fresh lime juice and cilantro. It is a popular refreshing dish in Venezuela, especially when cooling off during those really hot days at the beach.