Two members of Discovery Bay’s culinary community recently teamed up to compete at the World Food Competition (WFC) last month in Dallas, Texas.
Roberto Rose and Michael Callahan traveled with their families to compete in the WFC’s Chef category and came out fourth overall out of 50 teams. Rose – who owns the Byron Inn Café in Byron and co-owns Vin Alegro in Discovery Bay – said it was the trip of a lifetime.
“To be in the Top 10, I almost fainted,” Rose admitted. “It was crazy, and it was the best feeling of accomplishment I’ve ever had.”
Callahan works a 9-to-5 job from home and also owns Callahan’s Coffee and Cones in Discovery Bay, where he makes his own ice cream from scratch. The Dallas native made the perfect partner for Rose. His ability to play with and pair flavors perfectly complemented Rose’s skill, execution and palate. He also knows Dallas well, knowledge that came in handy when the pair shopped for ingredients.
“Chef asked me if I would be interested in being a sous chef, and I didn’t realize the magnitude of the competition at the time,” Callahan explained. “I’m from Dallas, so I knew I could show him around, give him the best places to shop. When I arrived, I realized, oh my gosh, this is big.”
Rose and Callahan’s team was completed with Rose’s 8-year-old son, Tony, who helped make their point-amassing final dish, a deep-fried pizza.
“Tony was registered as the youngest chef to ever compete at the World Food Competition,” Rose bragged. “These teams are all teams of three, and they’re top tier, and I bring an 8-year-old and someone who makes ice cream and I would do it all over again. I stand by those dishes and everything we did.”
The duo’s trip was not without trials: In addition to severely short cook times, assigned secret ingredients and stiff competition, Callahan said they encountered a unique set of challenges in their kitchen, an outdoor setup under a tent.
“Things went wrong, like the oven turning off a few times,” he recalled. “But there were no nerves. We were the calmest team out of the group. We just meshed well; it was a really symbiotic relationship. You think about that being the most intense competition experience you could have, but everything was calm.”
The team started strong in the first round with a miso glazed, crab-stuffed pork roulade served with fresh vegetables and olive oil-poached potatoes that scored highly with the judges. They kept pushing through, putting their passion on their plates, and at the end of the second round, were second in the world. At completion, their fourth place overall standing made them proud.
Both Rose and Callahan are already looking forward to repeating their success at next year’s competition, where this year’s top 10 placement earned them a spot. That isn’t all Rose is focusing on, though. He has a new restaurant opening in Concord in the new year.
“It will be called Viaggio,” Rose said. “In Italian, Viaggio means to take a trip, so it’s very focused on Italy and all that it has to offer.”
Rose is also hoping to publish a cookbook detailing his culinary journey, which brought him from Italy to America.
Callahan said he is now addicted to cooking and the fun he had at WFC and is searching for a way to enter the dessert category in next year’s event. He noted he will continue to delight East County’s taste buds with his creative ice cream flavors.
“I just hope to continue to innovate with different recipes and look at other opportunities to grow and trying to introduce new tastes and new flavors to the area,” he said.
Rose’s words at the end of the competition summed up the feelings of both.
“I am having a phenomenal time and I am excited for the future,” he said. “I am living my dream and I am super happy that my family is behind me and my friends are behind me.”