Bringing Home the Gold

Chef Travis Brust of the Williamsburg Inn takes top honors at the World Food Championships.

Photo Courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg

Chef Travis Brust

     Fortunately, not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Last November, Travis Brust, executive chef of the Williamsburg Inn in Colonial Williamsburg since 2011, brought home the title of World Chef Champion from the first World Food Championships, held in the expansive parking lot of Bally’s Las Vegas.

     “It was pretty intense,” the 31-year-old Brust says of his three days of fierce food competition in the blazing sun and neon lights of Sin City’s fabled strip. “When we got there and found our tent, we saw chefs Ben Vaughn and Jeff Henderson from the Food Network. We thought they were judges at first, but then we found out they were competitors.”

     Brust, an award-winning American Culinary Federation chef and New York native, confesses he thought he’d be eliminated on the first day. But, “for lack of a better term,” he says, “I kicked everyone’s butt!”

     Brust made it through the first round—completed in a heart-racing 30 minutes—by making a seared salmon fillet with fennel and apple slaw, vodka raspberry reduction and corn and leeks. When the field of 14 was culled to eight, Brust prepared—again in just 30 minutes—braised duck on a fresh herb biscuit hors d’oeuvre and Virginia honey and peanut encrusted duck breast entrée. (How could any chef stand a chance against Virginia’s finest, we ask?)

     But it was a dish fit for a queen—literally—that won Brust the title in the final round. He prepared a version of the dish served to Queen Elizabeth when she visited Colonial Williamsburg in 2007: fennel pollen dusted rockfish served with sautéed bitter greens, fresh oyster and pearl potato stew finished with a ginger citrus beurre blanc, accented with carrot cardamom gel. (Brust was a sous chef at the Inn at that time. “I wasn’t quite high enough on the food chain” to meet the queen in person, he says.)

     Brust says the VIP events and red carpet moments in Vegas following the win made him feel like a celebrity. What was the reaction he got when he returned home to Williamsburg? That, he says, was like “hitting a home run out of left field.”

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