Mitch Lienhard: “Ever since I can remember I have wanted to be a Chef”

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Mitch Lienhard was named the best young chef in USA region during the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016 regional heat and he will now put his passion for cooking to the test at the Grand Finale in Milan under the guidance of mentor chef Dominique Crenn.

We spoke to him about his preparations on how he turned a passion into a profession.

My dish is unique because…
My dish is unique because it represents the summation of all of my cooking experiences up to this point. There is a component for each stage of my learning from the past 14 years. It is a reflection of me.

What are the main influences in your signature dish?
A strong focus on technique and flavor, rather than too much theatrics.

How are you collaborating with your S.Pellegrino Young Chef mentor in order to perfect your dish for the final?
Chef Dominque and I have been meeting and practicing to fine tune every aspect of the dish. She has an amazing way of focusing on what the dish represents and what I want to say with it.

What led you to choosing a career in the kitchen?
I was sort of baptized into the kitchen as a baby. I got burned from some hot water that was on the counter while my mom was cooking. Ever since I can remember I have wanted to be a Chef. I believe it is my true calling as an individual.

Who has been a mentor to you throughout your career?
I have had so many people impact me throughout my career, it would be hard to pin point just one person. The list of people that I feel I have learned the most from would be David Kinch, Curtis Duffy, Grant Achatz, Joshua Skenes, Kevin Ives, and Christian Madsen. There are countless more who have made a positive impact on me.

What are your professional ambitions?
I hope that I am able to teach people and continue my own learning through travel. I would like to make a positive impact on the industry and the people I interact with whether it be guests or the people who work with me.

What’s the best dish you ever tasted? Where did you eat it and who cooked it?
One of the best dishes Ive ever had in recent memory is a creamy soup with lardons, croutons and chives from Chez L’Ami Jean in Paris. Stephane Jego is the Chef. The broth was amazing and had a fair amount of brandy in it I believe.

What is the most exciting/challenging element of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition for you?
To cook for a group of judges that I have so much respect and admiration for. These are Chefs that I have looked up to since I began my career and I am simultaneously excited and frightened!

What will you do if you win the competition?
I will celebrate with the other competitors and judges. Then I will get back to work!