Courtesy Pinnacle Entertainment
Stephan Schubert was crowned Best Pastry Chef of the Americas last week in Quito, Ecuador.
When you think of River City Casino (777 River City Casino Boulevard; 314-388-7777)
, what comes to mind? Nickel slots, Black Jack and all-you-can-eat snow crab, perhaps? Whatever image the south-side gaming complex brings to mind, it probably isn't that of the highest echelons of the culinary world.
Last weekend, however, River City Casino's executive pastry chef Stephan Schubert was awarded top honors at the Americas division of the World Chef pastry competition in Quito, Ecuador. The win in itself solidifies Schubert's reputation as one of the world's top pastry chefs but also qualifies him to compete for top honors at the competition's world championship next year in Greece.
See Also: Stephan Schubert is River City Casino's High-Flying Pastry Chef
The road to the World Chef competition has been long and difficult. In 2013, Schubert beat out numerous other applicants for the opportunity to compete as one of four in the national qualifying rounds held in Kansas City. His Wizard of Oz-
themed showpiece took top honors and set him on the course for last weekend's Americas round in Ecuador.
Schubert was confident of his abilities going in, but then everything went wrong.
"We could write a book about what happened and no one would believe it," Schubert laughs. "It started with my flight to Ecuador. I was connecting through Chicago, and our plane had mechanical troubles. We were late getting to Miami, so we missed the flight to Quito. By the time we got there, they had given my room away."
Travel troubles, unfortunately, were the least of his problems. Several weeks before the competition, Schubert compiled 300 pounds of equipment he would need in order to compete — air compressors, air guns, molds, special sculpting tools — and sent them to Quito so they would be waiting for him when he arrived. However, when he got there, he was informed that Ecuador's customs agency would not release his materials.
"I was devastated. Really, I didn't know what I was going to do," Schubert recalls. "I thought to myself that I might as well go home because I was going to lose the competition. But then I pulled myself together and told myself, 'You've been doing this for a long time. You can do this. You just have to be innovative.'"
Schubert spent Friday and Saturday on an Amazing Race-
style scavenger hunt, racing through the streets of Quito to gather anything he could find to help him with the competition. "It was like a treasure hunt," he says. "It's not like here where you can just to to Wal-Mart or Home Depot to get stuff. It required a lot of innovation and adaptation. I didn't sleep at all for two days. I was up in my hotel room in the middle of the night cutting forms out of cardboard."
His tenacity paid off. Schubert's showpiece secured him the victory and guaranteed him a spot at next September's world championship. The piece — which had to adhere to the competition theme of Greek myths and legends — depicted a realistic Medusa being slayed by an abstract warrior figure. Schubert will adapt the piece for the finals.
"I'm really proud of the win because of everything I had to go through to get there," Schubert says. "There were so many obstacles, but I was able to pull this off."
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