Follow Me Foodie to the Canadian Culinary Championships!
The Gold Medal Plates 2014 Winners and a recap of the grand finale in Kelowna, BC.
Gold Medal Winner: Lorenzo Loseto from George Restaurant – Toronto, Ontario
Silver Medal Winner: Duncan Ly from Yellow Door Bistro – Calgary, Alberta
Bronze Medal Winner: Danny St, Pierre from Auguste – Montreal, Quebec
People’s choice award for mystery wine pairing competition: Duncan Ly – Calgary, Alberta
Saturday, February 8 was the 2014 Canadian Culinary Championships Gold Medal Plates grand finale at The Delta Grand Okanagan in Kelowna, BC. I was giving live updates via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, but here are the juicy details and full story.
First off, congratulations to the winners and all the competing chefs who busted their bums off for the 2 day competition. It included a mystery wine pairing competition, black box challenge, and grand finale competition, but unfortunately I had to miss the first two. Having not seen the first two competitions I was at a disadvantage and it was like jumping into a movie halfway through. If you come to the Gold Medal Plates and you’re really serious about culinary competitions, I recommend attending all three events.
It’s a short but event packed 2-day stay in Kelowna, which by the way is going to be the host city for the Canadian Culinary Championships for the next 5 years! I know! How exciting! Or is that only exciting if you live in BC and it’s close by? The hosting city usually has a 5 year contract and Kelowna is on its 4th this year, but thanks to wonderful sponsors they were able to extend it for another 5 years, making Kelowna the home of the Gold Medal Plates. It’s really best to visit BC’s wine region during the warmer months, but this event is worth coming for in the winter.
Day 1 – Mystery Wine Pairing Summary
On Friday evening, the 11 competing chefs must prepare a dish to match the mystery bottle of wine they receive less than 24 hours before. This year’s mystery wine was Laughing Stock 2012 Blind Trust White from the Okanagan Valley, BC. Chefs were given $550 to shop for ingredients to provide a small plate for 425 guests. Guests were invited to vote and People’s Choice went to Chef Duncan Ly of the Yellow Door Bistro in Calgary.
Day 2 (Day) – Black Box Challenge Summary
This portion of the competition takes place in the morning and afternoon at the Okanagan College. Chefs have one hour to prepare two dishes with black box ingredients sourced from all over Canada by the judges. This years black box ingredients included: a container of Cornect Family Farm honey butter, a container of Saskatchewan cherries from Over the Hill Orchards, a whole chicken from Sterling Springs near Kelowna, 50 g dried mushrooms from Champignon Le Coprin in Gatineau, two West Creek Farms trout, whole but gutted, and organic parsnips from Green Croft Gardens in Grindrod in the Okanagan Valley.
Day 2 (Evening): Grand Finale at the Delta Grand Okanagan Summary
Vancouver, British Columbia
Chef: Brian Skinner
Restaurant: The Acorn
Being from Vancouver, BC, I was a bit biased to a “homegrown” chef. Brian is chef and part owner of a sophisticated vegetarian restaurant in Vancouver, The Acorn. Starting the restaurant he was not fully vegetarian, but he recently became full vegetarian. He really stuck to his theme providing the only vegetarian dish at the grand finale which is also available on The Acorn’s current menu. My post for The Acorn.
Dish: Smoked King Oyster Mushroom, confit potato, braised shallot, carrot meringue, sherry gel and mushroom jus
Paired with: Clos du Soleil Chegwin & Baessler Pinot Blanc, 2012, Similkameen Valley, BC
For a vegetarian plate it actually came across quite meaty with the selection of vegetables. It was representable of the season and the mushroom had natural umami and good bite since he just used the stems. Everything was sourced locally besides the sherry, which Brian feels is best left to Spain. I agree.
Calgary, Alberta – SILVER MEDAL PLATE WINNER
I first met Duncan during Follow Me Foodie to Calgary. I was staying at Calgary’s first boutique hotel, Hotel Arts, where Duncan is the executive chef of their restaurant Yellow Door Bistro. Little did I know we had mutual friends in the industry and he was part of the original Diva at the Met crew at The Metropolitan Hotel in Vancouver, BC. Originally from Alberta, he further developed his culinary career in BC before moving back to Calgary. He’s a familiar name in the world of national culinary competitions and tends to finish on top.
I asked most the Gold Medal Chefs who their competition was this year and majority of eyes were on Duncan, especially since he’s competed at Gold Medal Plates before. He won the People’s Choice Award for the mystery wine pairing competition on day 1 of the Gold Medal Plates.
He came from Alberta, but had a large following of supporters from Vancouver… me included.
Proud of his Vietnamese heritage, Duncan consistently brings Asian flavours to many of his dishes and it was no different at Gold Medal Plates. The press was a smart idea considering the context of the competition and limited resources to prepare finale dishes. It was something that could be served chilled to room temperature and it required no a la minute cooking. The texture was gelatinous, given that it was pig’s ear in between with a layer of herb and mint gelée on top, and it was catered towards an Asian palate. I’m not sure how the gelatinous qualities would be for a Western palate who generally isn’t keen on this texture. I wouldn’t mind a bit more acidity because it was rich, but it was well seasoned and made good use of what is usually seen as an undesired part of an animal.
Chef: Paul Shufelt
Restaurant: Century Hospitality Group
Like many chefs, Paul found his way as a chef starting as a dishwasher. He trained at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and spent time in Montreal and Switzerland to develop his skills. He is now business partner and executive chef at Century Hospitality Group.
Dish: Pomegranate braised Tangle Ridge Ranch Lamb, yellow foot chanterelles, faro risotto, pickled candy stripe beets, crispy leeks, micro mint
Paired with: Mission Hill Select Lot Collection Syrah, 2011, Okanagan Valley, BC
I didn’t get a chance to research his culinary philosophy before trying his dish, but after trying it I wrote “elevated comfort food” in my notes. Then I read his bio after and low and behold he identifies his cooking style as “comfort food with a contemporary twist”. He is who is he is.
It was a very approachable and hearty dish and something I would order at a restaurant during the winter. I’m not sure how “competition level” it was, but the flavour combination is tried, tested and already well accepted.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Chef: Martin Ruiz Salvador
Restaurant: Fleur de Sel (Lunenburg)
Martin is born and raised in Nova Scotia and he started in the kitchen as a dishwasher in Halifax. His culinary training was at Le Cordon Bleu in Arizona and after he apprenticed in Europe at Michelin starred restaurants including 2 Michelin star Restaurant Lyon de Lyon with Chef Jean-Pail LaCombe. In 2004 he opened Fleur de Sel in Lunenburg with his wife, Sylvie. It’s a French restaurant executed with local ingredients and flavour, and in 2005 it came 8th in En Route Magazine’s Top 10 New Restaurants in Canada.
Dish: Salt water poached South Shore Lobster, parsnip & white corn polenta, Hama Tsunomata seaweed, beets, bone marrow, tofu, fermented radish, salt pork
Paired with: Benjamin Bridge Tidal Bay, 2012, Gaspereau Valley, NS
They actually brought water from the North Atlantic to poach their lobster in. It was a nice piece of lobster poached in butter and salt water, which is almost an effortless A as long as it’s not overcooked. It was almost too easy, but still very good. I don’t think I paid attention to the other components and the lobster really stole the show despite its simplicity. The polenta and sauces got a bit gummy, but the judge’s plates could have been different.
Montreal (Sherbrooke), Quebec – BRONZE MEDAL PLATE WINNER
Chef: Danny St. Pierre
Restaurant: Auguste (Sherbrooke)
Danny opened Auguste in Sherbrooke in 2008, but he also consults for companies such as pastry Biscay and the restaurant Laloux.
I’m really interested in his execution for the thinly sliced beef. It seemed like beef shank or beef tongue, and it was sweet and savoury and melt in your mouth tender and juicy. It had consideration for texture and it was approachable to most people. It came across a bit rustic and I actually found it unexpected as a finale plate for Gold Medal Plates. I could have this for breakfast, in a sandwich, or on rice. It was a good “at anytime” dish.
Toronto, Ontario – GOLD MEDAL PLATE WINNER
Chef: Lorenzo Loseto
Restaurant: George Restaurant
Lorenzo is a well respected name in Canada and his cooking philosophy is local and seasonal. He pays homage to classic techniques, but keeps things modern and says “[his] food is a reflection of his personality.” It sounds cliche and along the lines of what every North American chef is doing nowadays, but some do it better than others, and Lorenzo is known to be one of them.
It was a play with sweet and savoury and the ahi tuna was executed pretty perfectly, but the acidity and salt came from the components around it. I’m curious how the judges’ plates were because this was a sample version of what they had. It came across simpler than expected for a competition, but from what I hear he was consistently strong at the Gold Medal Plates.
Chef: Marysol Foucault
Restaurant: Edgar (Gatineau)
It was nice to see more female chefs this year since it is a male dominated industry.
Marysol has worked in kitchens since she was 15 and was even a food blogger at one point. She has no formal culinary training, but has experienced various roles as a catering coordinator at Urban Element. In 2010 she opened her own restaurant, Edgar (named after her late father). The restaurant offers soups, salads and sandwiches, and it’s considered an off-the-beaten path restaurant that’s worth the drive (10 minutes from downtown Ottawa).
Dish: Cured wild boar and rabbit presse, brown butter rabbit liver mousse, chestnut, parsnip, Sortilege Lichen, golden beet gastrique, pickled turnip
Paired with: Closson Chase ‘The Brock’ Chardonnay, 2011, Niagara River, ON
This was a bit hit and miss and it really depends if the pieces of fatty wild boar were tender – they weren’t always. It was a fairly large piece of wild boar, a piece of rabbit liver mousse, and another piece of large wild boar sandwiched together to look like pork belly as a whole. It was very meat heavy, but she tried to incorporate a lot of vegetables to balance. The rabbit liver mousse piece in between the wild boar pieces was my favourite part of the dish. The concept was different and unusual in theory and execution.
This wine pairing was one of the strongest if not the strongest at the finale and Marysol really showcased the wine first, which I’m not sure did her dish the biggest favour.
Chef: Jonathan Thauberger
Restaurant: Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar
Jonathan also started as a dishwasher when he was 16 and quickly moved his way up at Earls Restaurant in Regina. In 1992 he moved to Vancouver and attended Dubrulle French Culinary School. Later he worked under Chef Julio Gonzales Perini at Villa del Lupo for 7 years.
This was one of my favourite dishes at the finale. The rabbit ballotine was so tender, soft and juicy. It was sous vide and well seasoned, but it was sous vide a bit longer than it should have been because the meat texture was getting slightly grainy. The honey toast was risky since the bread got stale, but overall it was still an excellent dish with sweet, tangy and savoury flavours.
Chef: Trevor Robertson
Restaurant: Aroma Resto-Bar, Radisson Hotel
Trevor is a leader in environmentally friendly initiatives in and outside of his work life. He built his own composting site on his family farm North of Saskatoon where he operates a hobby farm with his brother. Together they raise pig, sheep, cattle, goat for milk and over 20 species of birds. He transports organic waste from the hotel to his personal farm to limit waste in landfills.
It was one of the more competition style dishes featuring a variety of techniques and components. There was a lot going on, on the plate, but I didn’t find it overpowering although 1 or 2 less components might have been better. The smoked corn sorbet was really smoky and it had the texture of granita, but I enjoyed it on its own apart from the press. It was one of the more avante grade plated dishes and another smart choice, given that a press can be pre-prepared and served room temperature.
St. John’s, Newfoundland
Chef: Roger Andrews
Restaurant: Relish Gourmet Burgers
Roger was part of Culinary Team Canada from 2006-2012 and has competed in local, regional, national and international culinary competitions. He won bronze at the IKA World Culinary Olympics in Germany in 2012 and is currently a chef instructor at The College of the North Atlantic in St. John’s. He is also chef and owner of Relish Gourmet Burgers and was one of the more experienced competition chefs at Gold Medal Plates.
Dish: Sous vide squab breast stuffed with pistachio and chanterelle mushroom, Labrador Tea infused squab reduction, popped wild rice, Newfoundland berry and edible flower salad, hibiscus vinaigrette, squash puree, maple scented apple
Paired with: Norman Hardie pinot noir, 2012, Prince Edward County, ON
This was another competition style dish although the description sounded more intense than the result. The squab was tender as it would be being sous vide, and there was a nice variety of textures especially from the smoky popped wild rice. I’d be curious to see the judges’ plates for this dish because I think it would have presented better.
Chef: Kelly Cattani
Restaurant: Elements the Restaurant
Another female chef! Again, it was nice to see more ladies competing – yes, 2/11 is already considered a jump from previous years. As I mentioned, it’s naturally a male dominated industry.
Kelly is Chef-de-Cuisine of Diversity Food Services at the University of Winnipeg. She takes care of on and off campus catering and is a founding member of the Winnipeg chapter of the Canadian Culinary Federation’s Junior Chefs.
It wasn’t my favourite, and I’m not sure how the judges’ plates were, but the dish was a bit lost in translation. It was Asian fusion (a bit blast from the past) and then Canadian with the elk, but it was very literal to the description. It was almost like a cold noodle salad with elk on top and I think it had more potential. Noodles outside of ravioli are hard to showcase in competitions and they don’t always present nicely.