BC Chinese Chef of the Year Award at BC Foodservice Expo Recap & Results!
A Follow Me Foodie Recap of the Chinese Chef of the Year Competition
All photos provided by Alvin K.C. Lee Photography
Congratulations to all the chefs who competed in the culinary competitions at The BC Foodservice Expo (January 29-30) at the Vancouver Convention Center. Organized by The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA), the B.C. Chefs Association (BCCA) and Canadian Culinary Federation (CCFCC), chefs from various restaurants in Metro Vancouver came together to compete for the title of “BC Chinese Chef of the Year” and “Roasted Chef of the Year”. After 2 days of Iron Chef like cooking challenges in front of a live audience the scores have been tallied and the results are in.
BC Chinese Chef of the Year
Gold Medal Winner: Chef Kent Wong, Fraser Court Seafood Restaurant
Other competitors include:
Gordon Ping Wah Chan of Always Seafood Restaurant
Sam Ka Bo Leung of Dynasty Seafood Restaurant
Wing Ho of Fortune Seafood Restaurant
Anthony Shy Wing Leung of Grand Dynasty Seafood Restaurant
Joseph Jiang of The Jade Seafood Restaurant
Chun Lum Ma of Shiang Garden Seafood Restaurant
Keng Wai Ng of Vivacity Restaurant
William Tse, The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant
Todd Bright of Wild Rice Modern Chinese Restaurant
**The competing chefs are members of the Canadian Culinary Federation (CCFCC) and the BC Chefs Association. Ten teams have been selected to date, based on merit and experience.
Roasted Chef of the Year
1st Place: Jeff Kang – Diva at the Met, Vancouver
2nd Place: Dan Craig – Delta, Burnaby
3rd Place: William Tse – The Sandbar, Vancouver
Other competitors include:
Rebecca Johnson – Italian Cultural Centre, Vancouver
Gerard Martin -Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, Penticton
Romeo Oloresisimo – Ora Restaurant, Kamloops
Tyler Leeson – Kingfisher Restaurant at Halcyon Hot Springs Resort, Nakusp
James Marinoff – Bon Rouge Bistro and Lounge, Victoria
John Waller – Victoria
Colman Herrington – Vancouver
Nathan Wright – Coast, Vancouver
James Hanna – RauDZ Regional Table, Kelowna
**All 12 chefs are active members of the Canadian Culinary Federation. Chefs from each of the four provincial chapters will represent their region thanks to a combination of merit, previous competition experience and success in regional challenges.
About the Chinese Chef of the Year Competition
For many of these Chinese chefs it was their first time competing in this sort of challenge, let alone in front of a live audience. Vancouver is world renowned for its excellence in Chinese cuisine and many, including myself, find that it’s just as good as what you can get in Hong Kong and China. For one, some of the best chefs in Hong Kong and China are the ones in the kitchen of many of our famous Chinese restaurants in Vancouver. Another reason is because the seafood quality and water is also better in Vancouver, which is especially important since Chinese food consists mainly of seafood. Quite often, it all starts with using the right ingredient. Sure there are dishes Hong Kong and China excel in, like Peking Duck, hand pulled noodles, and congee just to name a few, but generally speaking, Vancouver is the most well recognized North American city to house the best in authentic Chinese cuisine.
It’s not often to have a Chinese chef step out of a kitchen and that’s partially why I’m so passionate about this initiative. The BC Chinese Chef of the Year competition is a platform that gives them the opportunity to be equally as recognized as other well known and talented chefs in the city. Starting with a “Chinese Chef of the Year” is perhaps the first step, since it’s the most popular ethnic cuisine in Vancouver, but even better would be to eventually see Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and other Asian cultures being showcased in the same context. In the end, cooking is cooking, technique is technique and good food is good food, so seeing them all represented in their respective categories is something I look forward to.
Judging Panel & Criteria
This was the first BC Chinese Chef of the Year competition and I was honoured and overwhelmed to be invited as a guest judge. The judging panel was lead by Chef Alex Chen, who is the 2013 chef representing Canada in the most prestigious and demanding culinary competition in the world – Bocuse d’Or in France. Other culinary masters on the panel included Sylvain Cuerrier (Executive Chef of RiverRock Casino Resort), Paul Ho (Treasurer of BCCA), Michael S.Pinter (Director of BCCA), and Ned Bell (Executive Chef of YEW at The Four Seasons Hotel).
The judging criteria included: Presentation, Taste, Organization, Sanitation, Safety, Kitchen Skills, Creativity, Communication with Chef and Sous Chef, and Wastage of Food.
If I look through a cultural lens at Chinese food there are many factors that come to mind, such as efficiency and cost. Yes, this could be true of many cultures, and I know I’m speaking quite generally, but it is especially true with Chinese cuisine. Quite often it’s about getting the food out there as fast as you can because one less turnover is one less sale. Wasting is also highly frowned upon and that’s why every part of the animal is used and for the most part eaten.
Being very familiar with Chinese cuisine I’ve become immune to the expected family style servings and presentation. Making a dish look nice is not exactly the important focus, although what’s considered “nice presentation” is also debatable. Nonetheless, part of the competition was to challenge these chefs to strengthen their presentation skills and hopefully one day be able to have them at a level fit for national chef competitions. In a way it does mean these dishes need to visually appeal to Western and European standards, but at the same time it isn’t to take away from what they already know and do.
If there was an award for “game face”, he would have won it hands down. This is Chef Sam Ka Bo Leung of Dynasty Seafood Restaurant who is currently training to compete in the World Culinary Olympics in Germany. Best of luck to him!
Although many of these Chinese chefs are classically trained in Chinese cuisine and have cooked for decades in Asia and in Vancouver, there were also some chefs representing Vancouver’s modern Chinese restaurants, like Chef Todd Bright from Wild Rice and Chef William Tse from The Sandbar. These two chefs have exercised the idea of fusion in their own style at their perspective restaurants. While some could consider this as comparing apples to oranges, it is more or less an equal battlefield when there are chefs trained in traditional Chinese cuisine trying to modernize dishes, and chefs trained in non-traditional Chinese cuisine trying to keep them authentic.
It was interesting to see the different approaches to the challenges. On one hand there were the chefs with a set of nicely sharpened knives, and on the other hand there would be the chefs with one knife, which is the cleaver. You can predict which teams had which knife. The cleaver is the one knife that does it all if you know how to use it, and this all partially goes back on the idea of efficiency too. There’s no right or wrong, but they’re just completely different set of tools for different cooking styles.
This also stems from the fact that most traditional Chinese cuisine will require chopping of bones and the fish rarely has to be de-boned since it’s served whole, so the clever is more or less required. In Asia you rarely come across perfectly packaged chicken breasts and quite often the whole chicken is used and presented. A personal default I find with the cleaver is that it makes it harder to be intricate and detailed with its blunter blade and I find this also affects presentation. Once in a while I would see carving knives to cut lotus blossoms out of daikon, but generally the cleaver played the dominant role as expected.
In terms of cooking techniques, the wok was typically the cooking equipment most used as you may have guessed. The ovens were pretty much decoration as Chinese cuisine rarely requires an oven, and in fact, many homes in Asia don’t have ovens.
In regards to ingredients, the most used ingredient was likely the mushrooms since they symbolizes wealth and prosperity. It’s also especially popular to use during this time since it’s around Chinese New Year. The ingredients that were never touched were quite predictable too, the beets and fennel. Those are just way out of Asian comfort zone, although I’m sure they could do something amazing with it once they start experimenting. Who knows? Maybe next year?
**I apologize in advance for those hoping to read the “critiques” of the food. I’m not going to be commenting on the food too much, since that’s not really the purpose of this blog post. I just want to share with you my insights and experience at the Chinese Chef of the Year competition. I will however include some general comments on interesting techniques I witnessed.
Day 1: Chinese Chef of the Year Protein Challenge
The first Chinese Chef of the Year cooking challenge was to create one dish using a protein they previously drew from a hat. Given time to prepare and bring their proteins to the competition, the time limit was 45 minutes to complete the one dish. The point is to maximize this time, which again is a rather new concept for traditional Chinese Chefs who are accustomed to speed. Each chef had one sous chef and 2 teams competed at a time. Protein choices included chicken, beef, pork, lamb, duck, or seafood. Just like Food Network’s Iron Chef, additional ingredients, spices and sauces were provided for use.
Always Seafood Restaurant – Protein: Chicken
The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant – Protein: Seafood
Shiang Garden Seafood Restaurant – Protein: Beef
Dynasty Seafood Restaurant – Protein: Duck
- The Endive leaves are very modern to Chinese cuisine and in this dish they filled them with mushrooms like a lettuce wrap.
The Jade Seafood Restaurant – Protein: Seafood
- The sauce used for the calligraphy was a puree of peas and ginger.
Fortune House Seafood Restaurant – Protein: Duck
Grand Dynasty – Protein: Pork
- The pork chop cutlet reminded me of the deep fried prawn dish tossed in mayonnaise and honey with candied walnuts. It’s a modernized Chinese dish and in this case it was executed with pork and a maple syrup glaze which hardened like crispy candy mimicking pork crackling to me.
Fraser Court Seafood Restaurant – Protein: Beef
- I’ve never seen this done before. Chef made egg crepes and wrapped them around thin strips of beef tenderloin and then rolled it all together with more beef tenderloin like sushi. It visually reminded me of oxtail, but the whole execution process I’ve never seen.
- The wraps along the edges were almost like Peking Duck Wraps, but stuffed with mushrooms.
Vivacity Restaurant – Protein: Duck
- This showcased duck breast and duck tongue. The orange sauce was made with salted egg yolk and red pepper which are ingredients I’m familiar with separately, but not together.
Wild Rice Modern Chinese Restaurant – Protein: Pork
Day 2: Chinese Chef of the Year – The Black Box Challenge
Day 2 of the BC Chinese Chef of the Year was The Black Box Challenge. Each team was given a black box featuring 2-3 ingredients which had to be used to make an appetizer and a main. Each team was given 45 minutes and only discovered their ingredients a minute before starting their challenge. Each chef had one sous chef and 2 teams competed at a time.
Appetizer: Mussels with 3 different sauces – Chef William Tse, Sandbar
Main: Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Monk Fish with Coconut Milk and Vegetables – Chef William Tse, Sandbar
Appetizer: Monkfish on Grilled King Oyster Mushroom with Sweet Thai Chili Sauce
Appetizer: Black Bean Stir-Fried Mussels with Peppers and Baby Bok Choy
Appetizer: Beef Tartare & Hamachi Tartare with Wonton Crisps – Chef Todd Bright, Wild Rice Modern Chinese Cuisine
Main: Seared Beef Sirloin, Hamachi Sashimi & Pan-Fried Fermented Black Bean Stuffed Gyoza, Chef Todd Bright, Wild Rice Modern Chinese Cuisine
Appetizer: Seared Hamachi (Rare) with Wasabi Mayo
Main: Seared Beef Sirloin, Hamachi Sashimi Tower with Egg, Cucumber and Wasabi Mayo & Potato Salad with Mushrooms
Appetizer: Grilled Saba with Sweet Thai Chili Sauce
Main: Sauteed Beef Chuck in Satay Sauce with Saba Endive Wrap on Enoki Mushrooms
Pre-Appetizer: Fried Saba with Garlic and Onions – Chef Kent Wong, Fraser Court Seafood Restaurant
Appetizer: Saba Poached in Egg with Dried Scallop on Butternut Squash with Sweet Soy Sauce – Chef Kent Wong, Fraser Court Seafood Restaurant
Main: Sauteed Beef Chuck wrapped with Chinese Broccoli in Satay Sauce & Sauteed Black Trumpets, Chanterelles and Vegetables – Chef Kent Wong, Fraser Court Seafood Restaurant
Appetizer: Deep Fried Noodle Wrapped Horse Mackerel with Sweet Thai Chili Sauce in Endive Leaves and Sauteed Vegetables
Main: Kangaroo Meat Patties with Baby Bok Choy
Appetizer: Deep Fried Horse Mackerel with Butternut Squash
Main: Sauteed Kangaroo with Sugar Snap Peas in Black Bean Sauce
Appetizer: Fried Monkfish with Sauteed Mussels and Chinese Broccoli in Black Bean Sauce
Main: Seared Sirloin Tip on Lotus Root with Honey Sauce
Appetizer: Minced Monkfish and Mussels Wrapped in Egg Crepe
Main: Sauteed Sirloin Tip in Sweet Soy Sauce with Leeks and Endive