12th Annual Healthy Chef Competition – Event Recap + Winners

The 12th Annual Healthy Chef Competition

Follow Me Foodie to a Recap of The 12th Annual Healthy Chef Competition Event & Fundraiser

The 12th Annual Healthy Chef Competition took place on the evening of March 16 at The Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown, Vancouver. Organized by the BC Produce Marketing Association, Fruits and Veggies – Mix it Up!, and the British Columbia Chef’s Association it’s an evening of guilty, and not so guilty indulgences. Well considering all the dishes were supposed to promote the idea of eating fruits and vegetables, there was nothing to really feel guilty about. But then again that depends on how many times you went up for seconds… and thirds etc. However when it comes to food it’s all a celebration, so let’s not worry about feeling guilty at all!

Me & Freggie – the 1/3 asparagus, 1/3 broccoli, and 1/3 brussel sprout mascot they had walking around… ohhhh I get it!!! He was a 1/2 fruit and 1/2 veggie!! Freggie! Yeah that totally did not click in until now… heeeyyyy, is that a chili pepper eyebrow… ? And is that a green bean as the raised eyebrow? And a strawberry nose… ? Uhh huhhh… my eyebrow is also being raised now. (Photo from Food & Tell)

I was pleased to be invited last year (see here) and was honoured to be invited again this year. So what exactly happens at this event? Does everyone sit around eating salads? No, not at all. The point is to promote a healthy living, balanced diet, and increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. The event includes 10 restaurants and hotels that are invited to produce a main and dessert each. The dishes support the healthy theme and also show off BC’s culinary talents from some of their finest chefs. A selected team of judges then determine the winners which are announced later in the evening. The proceeds of the event were for the Canadian Cancer Society, Heart & Stroke Foundation, BC Chef’s Association and Fruits and Veggies – Mix it Up!

What I found most interesting about this year is the increase of participation from Chinese restaurants. It was so unexpected because to be honest, how often do Asian restaurants participate in anything “mainstream”? It was a pleasant surprise to see them on board and I can only hope it’s only the beginning. On another note, I know the Chinese restaurants could have done better than what was delivered. C’mon guys, don’t bother catering the food to the majority. Be confident it what you do, there’s a reason why Vancouver’s reputation for Chinese food is second to none!

Foodie on a mission! My line up of desserts… (Photo from Food & Tell)

It’s definitely a fun event and each guest is given two cards to represent which restaurant their main and dessert will come from. So with a little pre-scouting and trading of cards, I was set to go. With 10 restaurants + 10 mains + 10 desserts + one hungry and determined foodie… I can only conclude with “I got a feeling… that tonight’s going to be a good good night” (lyrics from Black Eyed Peas). Anyways sorry to disappoint you all, but I didn’t get to all 10 mains or 10 desserts, but I was so close! I ended up with 8 mains and 8 desserts… see, I can keep a balanced diet!

Overall I enjoyed the food better at last year’s competition – see here. There seemed to be a lack of love or creative execution with the vegetables and fruits this year. I just didn’t see it as a theme in the dishes. I did have my highlights, but I won’t go into my usual essay like detail about the food just because it was a one time thing and it was a fundraiser. Also, under the circumstances, I don’t feel the food is representable of what each restaurant can normally do on a regular basis, although it may give a slight idea.

The 10 Restaurants & Hotel Competitors:

  1. The Hyatt Regency Vancouver
  2. Vancouver Community College
  3. The Well Restaurant
  4. Delizia Fusion Cuisine
  5. River Rock Casino Resort
  6. Dynasty Seafood Restaurant
  7. Chinese Canadian Chef Association
  8. The International Culinary Schools
  9. Goldfish Pacific Kitchen
  10. Executive Hotel

Judging procedure: Minimum of 6 fruits and veggies, correct cooking procedure in order receive maximum nutritional benefit, artistic presentation, how sauce and ingredients go together on the plate, taste and dowiness of food and cooking procedure.

Official Winners of 12th annual Healthy Chef Competition 2010:

  • Best Entree: Hyatt Regency Hotel  Vancouver
  • Best Dessert: Goldfish Pacific Kitchen
  • Healthy Plate Award: River Rock Casino
  • Best Table Showcase: Chinese Canadian Chef Association
  • People’s Choice Award: Chinese Canadian Chef Association

On the table:

Starter Plate

  • Hyatt Regency Vancouver
  • Confit Salmon Roulade with fresh herbs, baby vegetable salad, citrus emulsion
  • I had 2 of these because I was pretty hungry.
  • The salmon was creamy, moist, buttery and tender with a hint of dill and I enjoyed it.
  • Since the salmon was made confit the citrus salad was a nice contrast to cut the richness.

The Hyatt Regency Main

  • Tandoori Rub Beef Tenderloin, Aloo Tikki, Spring Vegetable, Mint Chutney, Beet Coulis
  • WINNER: BEST ENTREE
  • Luck of the draw! This was actually the main I was assigned to! One of my top 3 picks for mains of the night, although the aloo tikka didn’t do it for me.
  • The tenderloin was delicious, although not spicy for a Tandoori rub. It was medium rare to almost rare and the execution of the meat was incredible. Definitely the highlight of the dish. I do wish there was more mint chutney and beet coulis to make an actual impact though.
  • The vegetables were served with a creamed curry eggplant which was quite nice.
  • The aloo tikki tasted like samosa stuffing and it was a bit dry.

The Hyatt Regency Dessert

  • Trio of Strawberries: Strawberry Shooter, Marinated Strawberries on Meringue, Strawberry Tart
  • I didn’t get to this one in time before it was gone… next time I’ll bring elbow pads.
  • The event was also sponsored by California Strawberries, hence the strawberry theme.

Vancouver Community College – Main

  • Fillet of beef, slow braised brisket, mushroom and spinach ravioli, sautee of root vegetables and purees, sherry vinegar jus
  • This was another entree I didn’t get to in time. I didn’t hear much about it either.

Vancouver Community College – Dessert

  • Carmella mousse, hazelnut cake with apple tarte tatin, cranberry and citrus sorbet
  • This was actually one of my top 3 desserts of the night.
  • I’m a sucker for hazelnut cake made with crispy hazelnut wafers alternating with cake layers, which was what this was.
  • There was also an apple layer to keep it moist and to keep to the fruit theme.
  • It wasn’t as professionally executed, but it was from VCC so it’s understandable and still pretty well delivered.

The Well – Main

  • The Rabbit’s Feast: Roulade of rabbit, pulled leg, Dutch sausage, braised Red cabbage, slow cooked cherry tomato, roasted golden beets, sauteed zucchini and squash, honey glazed carrots, cauliflower puree, farro, natural reduction
  • This was another on of my top 3 picks for the mains.
  • I’ve been meaning to try The Well for ages and I heard the brunch is amazing. If this entree was an indication of what’s possible, then it definitely sparked my interest.
  • I loved the triple take on the rabbit and the three different textures it showcased for it.
  • The rabbit was sous vide and well executed and it sat on shredded and braised rabbit which was incredibly juicy and tender. The third form was the deep fried version with Dutch sausage. Each form was well enjoyed, and the rabbit was the highlight of the dish.
  • It was interesting to see all the vegetables executed in a different cooking techniques as well, but they were secondary to the rabbit.

The Well – Dessert

  • Tropical Pavlova: Coconut sorbet, orange gel, kiwi coulis, rum-glazed pineapple, tropical fruit salad
  • The coconut sorbet served on top of toasted sweetened coconut was such a winner. I kid you not I was eating it out of the tray at the end of the night… I made a giant sundae out of the serving tray and they let me top it off with all the leftover toppings. It was great.
  • I just really wasn’t a fan of the pavlova. It was pretty dry and styrofoam like rather than crispy, light and airy and it didn’t have that creamy soft marshmallow centre.

Delizia Fusion Cuisine – Main

  • Wild Sockeye Salmon wrapped in Organic Lettuce Leaves, Steamed and Set on top of circle of Organic Rice Melange, Japanese Kabocha Pumpkin. Accompanied with Mussels Marinara and Lemongrass Gastrique.
  • I was really not a fan of this main. I haven’t heard of the restaurant, but unfortunately this didn’t make me too curious.
  • The mussels were oddly dry and they didn’t look too good either.
  • The salmon wrapped in lettuce was just really odd and mushy as well.
  • It was almost like a raw salad thrown on top of seafood and steamed multigrain rice, so I didn’t understand it.

Delizia Fusion Cuisine – Dessert

  • Panna Cotta Mi Amore: Almond Breeze & Amaretto, Tuiles Amadine, Raspberries & Chambord Royale
  • I didn’t get to try this either. It did look pretty good though.

River Rock – Main

  • Braised Sea Cucumber with Shiitake, Pea Sprouts, Prawns, Garden Pea Puree, Lily Bulb, Beet Powder, Chive Oil
  • WINNER: HEALTHY PLATE AWARD
  • The sea cucumber was incredibly soft and tender and not crunchy or gelatinous like it can be sometimes. It’s a Chinese delicacy and was the highlight of the dish and I’m not even a fan of sea cucumber.
  • It was all Asian ingredients, but the presentation was modern and then the green pea puree just came out of nowhere and didn’t necessarily complement the other ingredients.
  • I wasn’t that impressed with the dish overall because it just seemed like a deconstructed sautee of Asian vegetables.

River Rock – Dessert

  • Osmanthus flower jelly with gogi berries, violet caramel, mango spheres & leather, pomegranate foam, black sesame and star anise tuille.
  • I’ve had this “osmanthus flower jelly with gogi berries” before so for me it wasn’t very special, although it looks intriguing.
  • Asian people love using jello in their desserts and I feel like it’s their answer to dessert for “Western tastes”.
  • You can order these gogi berry jellies at dim sum too. See the ones from Vivacity Seafood, Northern Delicacy, and Golden Ocean Seafood.
  • The mango spheres showcased a little molecular gastronomy, and overall the dish offered a lot of new flavour combinations that were unconventional.
  • The osmanthus flower jellies were a bit random and they didn’t go with the mango spheres very well. The mango spheres went great with the coconut tapioca and pomegranate foam though.
  • If you want to try mango spheres, YEW Restaurant + Bar also offers them for dessert – see Mango Ravioli.

Dynasty Seafood Restaurant

  • Steamed Pomegranate Chicken & Assorted Rice in Lotus Leaf
  • Diced Chicken and Sea Cucumber lightly stir-fried, then wrapped in egg white omelette to resemble a  pomegranate, accompanied with 16 grains steamed in Lotus leaves.
  • The entire entrée contributes only 270 calories per plate… but I only consumed maybe 1/4 those calories because I didn’t enjoy it too much.
  • This is what happens when Chinese restaurants try to appeal to Western tastes and I found it sacrificed what they do best.
  • The presentation was lovely and definitely representable of Chinese cuisine, but again the vegetables were pretty much displayed as a salad or even a garnish. There was literally two whole slices of raw tomatoes on the side and it looked ready for a burger.
  • The steamed pomegranate chicken was almost like a bundle of very soupy diced chicken noodle soup. It had no actual pomegranate in it and it was overall just savoury in flavour with a clear gelatinous sauce that was thickened with corn starch.
  • The assorted rice was sticky rice but made with 16 grains and some multi-grain rice. It was almost sweet and then the centre had a small piece of pumpkin. or Japanese Kaboocha Squash, which replicated the salted egg yolk in a traditional sticky rice.
  • It seemed like deconstructed sticky rice. The meat filling was a chicken filling in the omelette bundle, and then the sticky rice was on its own in the steamed lotus leaf. I didn’t understand this either, but it did look nice and exciting being presented in cute packages.

Dynasty Seafood Restaurant – Dessert

  • Moonlight Rabbit, Osmanthus and Apple pudding, Hedgehog pastries
  • Ohhh you sound so much better than you tasted! Or did you? Hmm maybe not, but I am so biased because I’m not a fan of Chinese desserts. Just by looking at it, I knew what they were and I knew I wouldn’t really enjoy them.
  • The presentation is quite traditional Chinese, which is also very “cruise ship” like.
  • The “rabbit” which looks like a plump mouse with devil eyes was a marshmallow rolled with coconut.
  • The osmanthus and apple pudding was very mild in apple flavour and it was definitely more like jello than it was pudding.
  • The Hedgehog was a take on those Chinese birthday buns and it was filled with red bean paste. It’s probably not the best thing to feature since they have to be eaten hot to be enjoyed.

Chinese Canadian Chef Association – Main

  • WINNER: BEST TABLE SHOWCASE
  • WINNER: PEOPLES CHOICE
  • Seafood from the East: Poached Prawns and Scallops with Ponzu Glaze, Organic Soba noodles and vegetables
  • How it was the winner in two categories kind of confuses me more than Freggie confuses me… but I don’t want to take away from them either so congratulations! First time entry for Chinese Canadian Chef Association and they bring home two wins!
  • I really did not enjoy this. It was really bland and the prawns tasted really fishy and the noodles were cold and dry and had no sauce.
  • Besides the asparagus and the minimal vegetable slaw on top of the Soba noodles I didn’t see any love for vegetables.
  • Everything was also very bland and the ponzu sauce seemed like Teriyaki sauce.
  • I think everyone was excited to see so much seafood, but it didn’t deliver beyond the visual presentation… which I actually didn’t find too “wow-ing” either.

Chinese Canadian Chef Association – Dessert

  • Taste of Strawberry: Strawberry egg tart, strawberry mousse and strawberry and lychee jello
  • “I feel like I’m eating Hello Kitty, and I really hate Hello Kitty”… okay I kind of feel bad for saying that because it wasn’t that bad… but I did say that at dinner too.
  • Again, the event was sponsored by California strawberries, hence the theme. I appreciated the interpretations of the strawberry and it was all very Chinese in style, but it also wasn’t that great flavour wise.
  • The strawberry mousse wrapped in sponge cake just tasted like any Chinese strawberry mousse cake you’ve tasted before, except the cake was dry.
  • I wish the crust was flakier in the egg tart and I wanted more strawberry flavour in the egg custard. It was a bit dry as well.
  • The strawberry and lychee jello was exactly that, but the actual pieces of lychee and strawberry floating inside was visually pleasing.

The International Culinary Schools – Main

  • “Sous Vide” Loin of New Zealand Lamb: Sunchoke Barigoule, minted spring pea puree, pickled Nomeko mushrooms, red wine reduction
  • This was probably one of my top 3 mains as well.
  • The lamb was well executed, tender, juicy, not too gamey and well seasoned.
  • I loved the sweetness of the fresh pea puree and then the contrast of juicy tangy pickled mushrooms. Everything was very slippery and smooth minus the carrot.
  • It was quite simple and in terms of creativity the envelope wasn’t pushed far, but it was still enjoyable to eat.

The International Culinary Schools – Dessert

  • Ginger Spiced “Healthy” Apple Bar: Vanilla scented rice & honey pannacotta, Gewurtztaminer braised pear, cardamom vanilla.
  • Oh my, they took that name so literally. There was no need to put “healthy” in quotations because it sure tasted like it. The cake or “apple bar” was really dry, dense and woody.
  • It sounded really good with familiar and exotic spices and ingredients, but the apple bar was either over baked or just not very good and it tasted like pure bran and fibre.

Goldfish Pacific Kitchen – Main

  • Yuzu marmalade glazed Gelderman Farm’s Pork Loin: 5 vegetable pave, roasted sunchoke puree, Maple Bourbon gastrique
  • I was so disappointed to miss this main because I heard it was pretty delicious.
  • The 5 vegetable pave was refreshing to see because almost every main that night was just vegetables thrown on top, or served as a basic side. This seemed like the only thing where love for vegetables was actually shown.

Goldfish Pacific Kitchen – Dessert

  • WINNER: BEST DESSERT
  • Trio of dessert: Pineapple Yogurt Mousse, White chocolate Apple Soft Cake, Strawberry Pannacotta
  • Pineapple Yogurt Mousse: Fresh pineapple garnish, coconut brittle
  • White chocolate Apple Soft Cake: apple compote, lavender anglaise
  • Strawberry Pannacotta: peanut butter short bread, strawberry gastrique
  • This was actually pretty good, but the apple soft cake was a bit dry.
  • The pannacotta was a nice play on a classic peanut butter and jelly combination. The fresh basil on top added a freshness that I appreciated more when eaten with just the strawberry pannacotta alone.
  • My favorite component was the pineapple yogurt mousse which was sweet and tangy, creamy and then a nice citrus burst of fresh pineapple compote underneath.
  • Every component featured 3 textures and I was just happy to not see anymore jello.

Executive Hotel – Main

  • Blackened Albacore Tuna & Smoked Pork Belly: Berkshire pork belly, Yukon Gold Potato Roll, Grilled Vegetable Napoleon, Seared Rare Tuna, Fraser Valley Pea Shoots
  • Grilled Vegetable Napoleon: Shiitake mushrooms, green zucchini, yellow zucchini, red peppers, Roma tomatoes and pea shoots
  • Yukon Gold Potato Roll was smoked in Applewood Cheddar.
  • I didn’t see the continuous theme with the four components, but the pork belly was quite tasty.
  • The Blacked Albacore Tuna tasted like it was crusted with a Cajun spice. It was smoky and spicy and carried quite the heat, but it was a bit overpowering.
  • The Yukon Gold Potato Roll was similar to a slightly dehydrated sheet of scalloped cheesy potatoes. The flavour was good, but I can’t say I was a fan of the texture .
  • The Grilled Vegetable Napoleon was like a sweet and juicy tower of grilled vegetables, but nothing really too surprising there. It was a mini burger but instead of a bun it was shiitake mushrooms.
  • The Pork Belly was my favourite one. It was well seasoned, crispy, moist, tender and buttery.
  • It was four hors d’oeuvres before it was a main though.

Executive Hotel – Dessert

  • Parfait Pyramid: Pistachio & Chocolate parfait, minted mango, melon, strawberry salsa, Mandarin Brandy glaze,  raspberry coulis
  • Fruits used in the salsa: strawberries, honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple, mango
  • Raspberry and mandarin orange was used in the coulis and the glaze.
  • I didn’t get to this one in time either! This was the only chocolate dessert of the night too and it looked pretty good (minus the melting factor).

19 Comments

  • KimHo says:

    You got me here… What part was supposed to be… Healthy??? For the most part, it looks like regular dishes (OK, probably served “smaller” to make up for something). But, otherwise, there is nothing that screams “healthy” to me. Am I missing something? And, the fact that you were “fighting” to get the food make it sound it was a gluttony-fest more than anything else!

    Anyway, to me, I would rather eat well and then go out to exercise.

  • Linda says:

    wow all the dishes look great but too bad some of them didn’t taste that great 🙁 but looking at the hyatt’s dishes, they sound delicious and i’m glad to see that they delivered – were the recipes from mosaic restaurant or just from the staff at the hyatt? regardless, the dishes here really peaked my interest in the hyatt’s potential for bringing out yummy food 🙂

    oo i did not like the looks of any of the dishes from the river rock – seems very paltry in comparison to the other restaurants as well 🙁 too bad you didn’t get to try the main dish from goldfish, it looks so beautiful and the veggie layers look appetizing! 🙂

    freggie is freaky looking – like an experiment gone wrong!

  • Mijune says:

    @KimHo – I lost the healthy theme as well, but it was a fundraiser so I’ll just leave it at that.

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – that’s good question! I think the Hyatt may operate out of Mosaic. I’ve been to a handful of Hyatt banquets, but not to Mosaic yet so I’m actually quite curious.

    Yes I thought River Rock was visually interesting and it caught my attention with all the components, but flavour wise I can’t say I was blown away relative to everything else.

    Lollll ohhh Freggie. Thanks Linda!

  • Dawn Donahue says:

    Great coverage Mijune – thanks so much. To clarify a few questions – no chef or station actually ran out of food. The competitions is structured this way:
    10 Chefs and competitors, 10 people to a table, therefore one entree and one dessert for each person at the table. Each competing property is required to make 50 items (1 for every table, 50 tables). most make 60 to 80 plates – so there are a few people that get two or three entrees and desserts.
    but, perhaps for next year, we can shake this up a bit.
    thanks again.
    Dawn

  • Mijune says:

    @Dawn Donahue – Right! I didn’t realize how writing that could be interpreted. Sorry about that Dawn! I’ll fix that in my post. 🙂

  • The Sous Vide” Loin of New Zealand Lamb: Sunchoke Barigoule, minted spring pea puree, pickled Nomeko mushrooms, red wine reduction
    looks great! I am a sucker for Lamb.

    Only thing lacking from this competition was my invitation..

  • Bow says:

    One of the distinguishing features of Chinese cuisine is immediacy, intenseness, not very subtle…the dishes presented here(from the Chinese contingent) were lacking in “umami”, that unctous taste in the mouth ‘cos they lack FAT !!! As did the taste of Delizia’s mussel/salmon dish.Mijune, you have tasted how great Chinese restaurants have vivid tasting food, here they went for art and blandness. I’ve touted the Well ‘cos the prices are very reasonable for classic cuisine as well as American and fusion.Very nice review, great pics, and I still dunno were you put it…

  • Mijune says:

    @Peter Holbook – LOL! It was a public event though so anyone could get tickets as well!! 🙂 Next year I’ll see you there I hope! And yes that lamb was melt in your mouth tender!! Thanks for visiting Follow Me Foodie! Hope you return!

    @Bow – lol! Thank you!! Yes I think you summed up what happened with the Chiense restaurants very well. The cooking technique and methods are very precise and can’t be messed around with too much to showcase dishes at their very best. Thank you for your always wonderful and smart comments.

  • Miss Jane says:

    That is so cool to see a Chinese Canadian Chef Association. I never knew they existed. Their main course and desserts are the best out of all the other ones. The Executive Hotel’s desserts look so melted and deformed. The main dish at River Rock looks like it’s from a diet plan but not so much for your wallet i am sure. This looked like an amazing event. How do you get to attend one of these?

  • Mijune says:

    @miss Jane – Actually I was most disappointed by the Chinese Canadian Chef Association’s main course and dessert. The photo looks good, but the flavour and execution was not there 🙁 You gotta read the descriptions lol… photos can be deceiving. They actually had tickets on sale to the public! It’s annual so I’ll keep you posted next year for sure 🙂

  • Dawn Donahue says:

    Mijune – i am so impressed with the amount of time and effort you put into your work – thank you so very, very much. What professionalism.

  • Mijune says:

    @Dawn Donahue – Wow… I’m incredibly honoured by your thoughts and it means so much to me. I hope to only bring you better and better.

  • chef marcus says:

    Hi Everyone,
    As one of the founders of this event, I am so happy that all the press have decided to talk about the event, this is a good start! Food needs to be judged in three forms:
    1) the degree of correct downness for the product and how the flavors meld together in your mouth.
    2) the freshness of the fruits and vegetables – did you taste those strawberries on the Chinese Chefs Association plate? Wow, just like being picked fresh off the plant after they were left for the right amount of time in the sun
    3) How did the plate, visual look to you? Those desserts on the above mentioned team were a credit to the artistic ability and creative geniusness of those chefs
    It was interesting to see how this years group of talented chefs took the level of plates to a new plain. The beauty of eating and coming to these events, is to learn….new ideas, new taste profiles and new plate presentations. While the consumer may or may not include these dishes into their personal favourites, one should appreciate the work and thought process it takes to bring this to your table.
    It has come along way in 12 years and gets better every year! Thank you everyone for your comments, it only helps us improve!

  • Mijune says:

    @Chef Marcus

    Honoured to have your comment! Thank you for visiting! I made sure to list the judging procedure as well in this post 🙂
    – You got me there chef! I didn’t pay attention to the strawberries on the Chinese Chef’s Association plate… I wish the other things on the plate could have rose up to these strawberries though!
    – I have no doubt these chefs all have artistic ability and culinary talent we all respect. I’m sure we all appreciate what they do… or at least I do… but in the context of “competition” I think it’s fair to give honest opinions as well 🙂

    Thank you again for your comments and an insider’s look at the event! Much respect.

  • So im a train chef in srilanka. i learned about this compitition.then i can have lot of aidea.and more new criation,s. im amesing/

  • Ahsan Manzoor says:

    I am a head chef. i have seen all the talented chefs thats really great food and excellent pics …….. Heartly appreciated to all chefs.

    Cheers.

    Chef Ahsan

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