Lake Quivira chef finds success at the Culinary Olympics
Cherry bavarian and pistachio sponge. Apricot gelee. Mint sugar lace.
Those are just a few of the mouthwatering treats which recently helped rank Lake Quivira Country Club Executive Chef Michael Lamping as one of the top culinarians in the world.
This fall, Lamping and his team, consisting of colleagues and Johnson County Community College culinary students, made waves at the 2016 IKA Culinary Olympics held in Erfurt, Germany.
As a team, they earned a silver medal for culinary arts and a silver medal for the pastry competition.
As an individual chef, Lamping earned the bronze medal.
To earn those ranks is significant, especially considering the prestigious competition draws thousands of chefs from around the world each year.
“It’s quite hard to medal because the competition is so tough,” said Lamping, of Kansas City, Mo. “I saw people heartbroken in tears, while others were smiling with joy. It really was a rollercoaster of emotions.”
To enter the Culinary Olympics was a massive undertaking.
Lamping and his team started training for the competition nearly two years ago. As a chef, Lamping has proven his own in local and national competitions for 16 years.
But the Culinary Olympics are on an entirely new level, he said.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “You need stamina because you’re working 24 hours straight and you still have to present food that looks fresh. You’re preparing food at the last minute.”
His team brought 95 percent of their ingredients with them from Johnson County to Germany. They were one of the fortunate teams who managed to get a thumbs up from customs officers. Other teams weren’t so lucky, with precious ingredients being confiscated at international airports.
Once the group arrived in Erfurt, they worked feverishly to find a kitchen and purchase special equipment, necessary because of European conversions.
The night before the competition began, they were up at 2 a.m. on a Friday, painstakingly preparing each dish.
In the end, their sleepless nights paid off.
“It was the pinnacle of my culinary career and I was very fortunate to be a part of it,” Lamping said. “The friendships I created there alone were entirely worth all the hard work. The excitement still hasn’t worn off.”
Over at the Lake Quivira Country Club, his success has caused a ripple of excitement.
“When he goes off and scores these medals, it makes me proud to know that at such a prestigious competition, others see that same value as we do,” said Dennis Nighswonger, general manager of the Lake Quivira Country Club.
Lamping has worked at the country club for over three years.
His career began as a culinary student at St. Louis Community College.
He places great value in a formal culinary education and he enjoys working with students in those programs.
Most of his kitchen staff at Lake Quivira Country Club consist of current culinary students or recent graduates.
“When culinarians commit themselves to school, it shows me what they really want to do with their life,” he said. “I don’t have to teach them how to read a recipe because they’ve had basic training. Culinary school teaches you structure and it focuses on the importance of the kitchen brigade, which will prepare them to run their own kitchen one day.”
He also feels like showing these kids the ropes is his duty.
“These young people have dreams and aspirations and I want to help them go in the direction they want to go,” he said. “I was that person once too, after all. I had a strong successful mentor so it’s only fair that I pass my knowledge along.”
Plus, working in a country club kitchen offers burgeoning chefs the chance to dabble in a wide variety of food flavors.
Lamping’s seasonal menus offer traditional cuisine with a contemporary twist.
Thirty years ago, eggs benedict and poached salmon graced the plates at an elegant country club.
Today’s modern foodie palate allows country club chefs to have a little more fun, using ingredients like fresh avocado or tarragon cream, for example.
And with each creation, Lamping is having the time of his life. He loves his job.
His enthusiasm has not gone unnoticed.
“I’ve seen Michael blossom and come into his own with his skills,” Nighswonger said. “I’m really proud of his involvement as a mentor for young people. He’s helping students and graduates learn to produce top quality right here in our kitchen.”
Now that the competition is over, Lamping is looking right around the corner at another goal.
For the next phase of his career, he hopes to obtain his Master Chef certification so he can one day teach at a culinary school.
Oh, and he’d love to compete in the Culinary Olympics again.
Maybe 2024, he said, with a grin. But he’s taking it one step at a time.