DINER | Photos From Behind The Scenes At The 2014 Canadian Culinary Championships

February 11, 2014 

IMG_5134

by Andrew Morrison | The long weekend has come and gone and with it (temporarily) went my ability to properly and personally moderate my own food and drink intake. As the Co-Senior Judge (with Sid Cross) and the Culinary Referee at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna, I was soaked by wave after wave of gastronomic invention, enough to keep me – regrettably – in kale and fernet branca for a few more days. But really, the eating and drinking was the easy part. It’s the math that kills you. I’ve been judging this competition for the past 6-7 years and it’s still a very humbling experience to have to grade dish after dish from some of the top chefs from coast to coast. Writing on a CCC scorecard – for me at least – is the most difficult writing there is. I enjoy it tremendously, but the pencil doesn’t jot down numbers without trembling with doubt. “Was that really as over-seasoned as I thought it was?” “Did the wine push the sauce too far into the realm of bitterness?” “Is this fish supposed to be this cold?” You want to get it right, every time.

And I think we always do.

As I mentioned last week, representing BC this year was chef Brian Skinner of The Acorn, the critically-acclaimed vegetarian eatery on Main Street. Though he didn’t finish on the podium, he held his own against Calgary’s Duncan Ly (Yellow Door Bistro), Montreal’s Danny St Pierre (Auguste), Winnipeg’s Kelly Cattani (Elements), St. John’s Roger Andrews (Relish), Toronto’s Lorenzo Loseto (George), Saskatoon’s Trevor Robertson (Radisson Hotel), Regina’s Jonathan Thauberger (Crave), Ottawa’s Marysol Foucault (Edgar), Halifax’s Martin Ruiz Salvador (Fleur de Sel), and Edmonton’s Paul Shufelt (Century Hospitality Group), impressing all of the judges with his technique, poise, and mastery of the veggie milieu. Those who names were ultimately called were Danny St. Pierre (bronze), Duncan Ly (silver), and Lorenzo Loseto (gold). My sincerest congratulations to them all!

I’ll let my good friend James Chatto – my boss at the event, the competition’s National Culinary Advisor, and an infinitely better writer than I – tell you how it all went down here and here. You can also take a look at some of the shots below to get a feel for how things looked from a judge’s perspective.

The view upon the not quite frozen lake from the El DoradoA good line up away in a manger at TantalusCCC judges gather at Tantalus for a cooking class with the family of gourmands behind PoppadomsCCC judges getting their mis en place together before cooking for themselves at TantalusTantalus winemaker David Paterson doing his bitAman Dosanj of PoppadomsFreshly made pakoras from PoppadomsAnne Debrisay (Ottawa) and John Gilchrist (Calgary)CJ Katz (Saskatchewan)Catherine Frechette of Tourism Kelowna looking a little hungrySpice options from PoppadomsTantalus is home to one of my favourite contained venue kitchensAman and Sid doing prepLesley Chesterman (Montreal), Cj Katz (Saskatchewan), Sasha Chapman (Toronto)Karl Wells (St. Johns), CJ Katz (Saskatchewan), Anne Debrisay (Ottawa)Jeff Gill (Winnipeg)Bill Spurr (Halifax) and Jeff Gill (Winnipeg)Anne and John hamming it upCJ and Poppadoms barman Harry DosanjA lovely refresher from Poppadoms barman Harry DosanjSasha having a laughJas (Mum) Dosanj of Poppadoms making chapatisThe cold calm before the hot storm of the Canadian Culinary ChampionshipsJames and Sid Cross (Vancouver) prepping their dish at TantalusJames Chatto (Toronto, National Culinary Advisor)James making chapatisCanadian Culinary Championship judges cooking for themselves with some help from the good folks at Poppadoms. The food was fantastic!Judges luncheon with Poppadoms at TantalusJudges luncheon with Poppadoms at TantalusJudges luncheon with Poppadoms at TantalusChef Trevor Robertson of the Radisson Hotel in Saskatoon describing a dish at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna(via our Instagram feed) @chefskinner of @acornvancouver presents his final dish to the judges at the #CCC2014Brian Skinner of Vancouver's Acorn during the Black Box competitionBrian Skinner serves up a dish for the wine pairing competitionBrian Skinner's grand final plate of smoked King Oyster shrooms with confit potato, braised shallots, carrot, sherry gel, and shroom jusChef Lorenzo Loseto of Toronto's George introducing a dish at the Canadian Culinary ChampionshipsA lovely intermission on the lake at the El DoradoChef Lorenzo Loseto describing a dish at the Canadian Culinary ChampionshipsChef Lorenzo Loseto's wine pairing dish of goat's cheese mousse with yellow beet carpaccio, bacon, fuji apples, truffle-scented black trumpet mushrooms, bacon and brussel sproutsChef Lorenzo Loseto's dish at the Grand Finale. Beautiful potato-wrapped ahi with little bits of carrot magic, fennel, peppercorn ailo, and fennel pollen/pistachio powderBrian Skinner's pickled cauliflower and mustard plate at the wine pairing competitionLoved this dish by Edmonton's Paul Shufelt - pomegranate braised lamb with yellow foot chanterelles, faro risotto, pickled candy stripe beets, crispy leeks, and micro mintMontreal Chef Danny St. Denis' Grand Finale dish of beef tongue with quail egg, cranberry confit and croutonsMontreal Chef Danny St. Denis' Grand Finale dish of beef tongue with quail egg, cranberry confit and croutonsWinnipeg chef Kelly Cattani opens the Black Box and starts planning her dishesRegina chef Jonathan Thauberger's rabbit ballotineSaskatoon chef Trevor Robertson's duck pressWinnipeg chef Kelly Cattani's elk with avocado, soba noodles and soySt Johns chef Roger Andrews excellent chanterelle and pistachio-stuffed squabCalgary chef Duncan Ly's pig's head and prawn press with hot mustard and garlic sauceChef Duncan Ly of Calgary's Yellow Door BistroThe Mystery Wine (Laughing Stock's Blind Trust white)Ottawa Chef Marysol Foucault's cured wild board and rabbit press with brown butter rabbit liverChef Paul Shufelt of EdmontonThe competing chefs lining up for introductions in the Okanagan CollegeHalifax Chef Martin Ruiz Salvador's salt water poached lobster with parsnip and white corn polentaMontreal chef Danny St. Pierre introducing his wine pairing dishOttawa chef Marysol Foucault finishing a dish for Sid CrossThe intensity of the Black BoxSt. Johns chef Roger Andrews at the Black BoxSetting up the plates at Black BoxChef Duncan Ly at the Black BoxSay hi! I was on the mic here for some four hours or so, commentating on the competition - phew!Chef Lorenzo Loseto competing in the Black Box - all business!The chefs in isolation, waiting for the Black Box competition to beginSuch a pretty dish by Ruiz Savador - an oyster moated with vichysoisse and ringed by smoked strugeonMartin Ruiz SalvadorChef Trevor Robertsons chili-honey pork bellyChef Roger Andrews maple-lacquered smoked pork bellyThe tracks of fools...

DINER: Follow Scout Behind The Scenes At The 2014 Canadian Culinary Championships

February 5, 2014 

IMG_1166

by Andrew Morrison | The Canadian Culinary Championships are going down this weekend up in Kelowna. 11 of Canada’s top chefs will be going head to head in three gruelling competitions: a wine pairing challenge, the dreaded Black Box event, and the Grand Finale (in which each chef tables a signature dish). Every one of the competitors has already had to beat out a dozen of their local peers in Gold Medal Plates competitions from Vancouver to St. Johns, so it’s a pretty big deal.

Representing BC this year is chef Brian Skinner of The Acorn, the critically-acclaimed vegetarian eatery on Main Street. He’s be going up against Calgary’s Duncan Ly (Yellow Door Bistro), Montreal’s Danny St Pierre (Auguste), Winnipeg’s Kelly Cattani (Elements), St. John’s Roger Andrews (Relish), Toronto’s Lorenzo Loseto (George), Saskatoon’s Trevor Robertson (Radisson Hotel), Regina’s Jonathan Thauberger (Crave), Ottawa’s Marysol Foucault (Edgar), Halifax’s Martin Ruiz Salvador (Fleur de Sel), and Edmonton’s Paul Shufelt (Century Hospitality Group). It’s a tough crowd, so if you want to give Skinner and his crew some love and support on Twitter, you really should! Hell, blow some kisses to him via his Instagram. I encourage you to do both because he has no home court advantage in Kelowna. It’s very much a level playing field, and the isolation factor weighs heavily. Every note of encouragement counts!

I’ve long had the honour of being one of the two Senior Judges from BC (the other being my good friend Sid Cross). It’s also my responsibility to referee the competitions, which is always a different sort of thrill. I’m en route as we speak, heading up as per usual a few days early in order to get re-acquainted with my fellow judges. If you want to follow along from the inside, you can keep track of things via @scoutmagazine on Twitter and Instagram. The hashtag for the weekend is #CCC2014. If you’re up in attendance, say hi! If you’re curious about what it looks like, at least from my perspective, check out this gallery I snapped a few years ago (2011?)…

The CCC judges from across the country sequestered at a table at the El Dorado during the wine pairing competitionFacade upon arrival at Sparkling Hills ResortMy bath at Sparkling Hill, overlooking the lakeIt's official...The Canadian Culinary Championship judges, L - R, Karl Well of St. John's; Andrew Morrison of Vancouver; James Chatto of Toronto; C.J. Katz of Saskatoon; Anne Desbrisay of Ottawa; Robert Beauchemin of Montreal; Clayton Folkers of Edmonton; Sasha Chapman oet ceteraMy room at Sparkling HillWinter at Sparkling HillA view from Sparkling HillArt in Sparkling HillSpa at Sparkling HillChef Ross Derrick of Sparkling HillA little currant and bubbly at Sparkling HillSquash, leeks, carrots, onion, radish, beet at Sparkling HillRabbit and apricot terrine with Neil Sproule's cherries at Sparkling HillSweet fennel sorbet at Sparkling HillFraser Valley goose with oyster mush and vanilla citrus endive at Sparkling Hillsfortified apple cider at Sparkling HillBeddis Blue, apple sauce and honeycomb crispA closing statement from Sparkling Hill pastry chef Anne Riemerschmid: tonka bean mousse, damson plum sauce, rosemary panna cotta, poached pear, peach foam, blueberry-blackberry sorbet, cherry in marzipan, apple strudel...WOWLunch interlude with chef Bernard Casavant at Wild AppleSquash soup with enoki mush cappTo the victors go the spoils......and the medals...A big gathering at Quail's Gate to introduce the chefs and judges, and to present each chef with a wooden box containing a bottle of wine without a label for the wine pairing competition the following dayGold Medal Plates CEO/Founder Stephen Leckie addressing the crowd at Quail's GateChef Jeremy Charles of Raymond's in St. John's introduces himselfChef Martin Juneau of Newtown in Montreal introduces himselfChef Dan Walker of Weczeria in Saskatoon introduces himselfEvent Organiser Lisa Pasin explaining the rules and such to the chef competitors at Quail's GateThe competing chefs...With James Chatto eyeing local press coverage on the morning of the first CCC competition's start...The judges table for the wine pairing competition at the El Dorado HotelTeam Ottawa has a laugh as they await the onslaught of guests at the El Dorado for the wine pairing competitionGuests arrive at the El DoradoGuests arrive at the El DoradoGold Medal Plates' National Wine Advisor David LawrasonJeremy Charles explains his dish to the crowdAs does Martin Juneau......and Ottawa's Michael Moffatt......and Frank Dodd of Toronto......and Andrew Fung of Edmonton......and Duncan Ly of Calgary......and Robert Clark of Vancouver...Frank Dodd's perfect little minced meat and mush pie with icewine cabbageThe judges listen intently as a dish is presentedRobert Clark's bison tart tar with its wine-loving sauce of cranberry, cinnamon, star anise and liquorice (take a bow, Kim Cyr!).Jeremy Charles' short rib with chopped/spiced rapini on polenta under potato rav and tom concasséMichael Moffatt's terrine of lamb liver with cran and pistachio on brioche smeared with sweetened red onion butter and garnished with a little cilantro/cucumber relish and some grainy mustardDan Walker's chilled striploind with rosemary and mustard, vanilla braised short rib, potato-parsnip salad dressed in leek-flavoured buttermilk.  Delicious marma made of red onion and cherry, tooInteresting take on a coq au vin from Duncan Ly, done with a lovely chasseur sauce, salted with bacon, garnished with celery leaf and given a gastrique of tayberry.Martin Juneau's bloody boudin on white bean puree with deconstructed Bordelaise (fucking awesome)Beef short rib with mustard spatzle, and thai curry-spiced saladThe mystery wine unveiled...NFLD chef Jeremy Charles wins "people's choice" nod from the crowd at the wine pairing competititionTorching El DoradoNational Judge James Chatto and La Stella's Rasoul SalehiJudges assemble in James Chatto's suite to break down the Wine Pairing Comp resultsThe chefs await their turn to compete in the Black BoxChefs Lee Humphries and Robert Clark eyeball the Black Box competition's ingredients, which were golden and candy cane beets, Dungeness crab, smoked wild boar flank and licorice rootAdjudicating the Black BoxLee Humphries of Vancouver gets to plating under timeRobert Clark | Vancouver | Black Box Crab CakeChefs Lee Humphries and Robert Clark exhale after participating in the Black Box competitionChef Micahel Moffatt of Ottawa starts cooking out of the Black BoxBlack boxBlack BoxHigh drama and plating at the Black Box...Chef Duncan Ly of Calgary concentrating during the Black Box competitionTeam St. John's start planning their two Black Box dishesBlack box crab saladRelief! Jeremy Charles of St. John's completes his Black Box dish just under timeJudges marking at the Black Box competitionThe Toronto station gets plating at the Grand Finale of the Canadian Culinary ChampionshipsThe judges between courses...Pickerel on elk cabbage roll | Dan Walker | SaskatoonFrank Dodd | TorontoIcewine cured and smoked salmon with icewine beets, beet sorbet and pot croq | Frank Dodd | TorontoSASK judge C.J. Katz and my fellow B.C. judge Sid CrossSous vide salmon with duck torchon and cracklingRobert Clark of Vancouver presents his final dish to the judges...Judges eye view of hot tom consomme with quail's egg french toast, ballontine and citrus glazed breast of unctiousness at the Canadian Culinary Championships,  courtesy of C Restaurant's Robert ClarkMartin Juneau over the shoulders of SASK judge C.J. Katz and my fellow B.C. judge Sid Cross | MontrealQuebec piglet's belly galzed with beet juice, dill and cider | Martin Juneau | MontrealSweet soy glazed pressed belly of Alberta pork with Asian slaw, duck sausage and pistachio biscotti | Andrew Fung | EdmontonBarney Bentall, Colin James and friends...A tasting plate of NFLD rabbit (that chef snared himself) | Jeremy Charles | St. John'sMartin Juneau, the moment he was named Canadian Culinary ChampionCanadian Culinary Champions L to R: Jeremy Charles of Raymond's in St. John's (silver); Martin Juneau of Newtown in Montreal (gold); Robert Clark of Vancouver's own "C" (bronze)L to R: Jeremy Charles of Raymond's in St. John's (silver); Martin Juneau of Newtown in Montreal (gold); Robert Clark of Vancouver's own "C" (bronze)Thanks...

DINER | Main Street Chef To Represent BC At 2014 Canadian Culinary Championships

November 12, 2013 

IMG_1526

by Andrew Morrison | The first ever Victoria Gold Medal Plates went down last Thursday night, pitting some of our brightest chef talents against one another. The competition has, in past years, been held in Vancouver, and decides which BC chef will represent the province at the annual Canadian Culinary Championships, which take place in Kelowna this February.

The duelling chefs this year were Darren Brown of the Fairmont Pacific Rim, Marc-André Choquette of Coal Harbour’s Tableau Bar Bistro, Kunal Ghose of Victoria’s Red Fish Blue Fish, Daniel Hudson of Hudson’s On First in Duncan, Jeff Keenliside of Victoria’s Marina Restaurant, Makoto Ono of Gastown’s Pidgin, Terry Pichor Sonora Resort on Sonora Island, Garrett Schack of Victoria’s Vista 18, Brian Skinner of The Acorn on Main Street, and Chris Whittaker of Robson’s Forage.

As a judge, I saw first hand how close the scoring was. Typically, only the top three chefs have their marks revealed, but I can tell you that there was only something like 7 percentage points separating 1st place from 7th place. So it was a very close run thing at the very top.

As always, there were some delicious oddities and outliers. Pidgin’s Ono, for example, chose to serve a sake and gin cocktail instead of a wine pairing with his otherwise perfect Onsen egg, smoked salmon roe and risotto (one of the best plates of the night). While not the least bit objectionable in and of itself, the sipper’s admittedly low intensity alcohol “burn” proved more of a barrier than a bridge. I saw the point and the purpose, but the little seafaring flavour bursts of roe begged instead for a juicy, coddling Riesling. Similarly, Vista 18′s Schack decided to double down on the different, serving a dessert – sweet potato beignet with chocolate and brown butter ice cream – next to a Scotch Ale. It was good eating, but there wasn’t much room for winning nuance in the sweetness, however multi-dimensional it might have been.

I suppose, then, that plating/pouring away from the savoury and the grape in cooking/pairing competitions is inevitably fraught with risk. It’s seldom rewarded in this particular arena, that is unless the results are revelatory in their perfection. That being said, I don’t want to put future competitors off from trying new things. It’s always great to see chefs swinging for the fences at the Gold Medal Plates!

I’ll have some final comments at the end as well as some photographs, but here’s the prime skinny from my boss at the event, James Chatto, whose palate and writing skills far exceed my own…

It’s always exciting to bring the Gold Medal Plates phenomenon to a new city. Last night we were, for the first time, in Victoria, British Columbia, where chefs from the city challenged their colleagues from elsewhere on the island, from Vancouver and from Sonora Island to see who would win the gold medal and progress to Kelowna in February. It was an extraordinary evening with a sold-out crowd of 500 completely involved in proceedings, with emcee Adam Kreek in fine form and more dancing to the music than I’ve ever seen at any GMP event. It seemed like half the room was up and rocking to a veritable orchestra of musicians – Jim Cuddy, Barney Bentall, Dustin Bentall and Kendal Carson, John Mann and Geoffrey Kelly from Spirit of the West, and trumpeter Daniel Lapp.

The competing chefs (representing Vancouver, Victoria and several Gulf Islands) also performed brilliantly, crossing the line like some kind of gastronomic peleton, all marks tightly bunched within a mere 12 percentage points. Fortunately, I had a brilliant team of judges to help me sort them out, led by co-Senior Judge, educator and international wine and food guru Sid Cross and co-Senior judge, author and editor, Andrew Morrison, alongside writer, blogger, editor and culinary judge, Shelora Sheldan, hotelier, international food and wine judge and Slow Food ambassador, Dr. Sinclair Philip, former chef, sommelier and innkeeper, now writer and editor, Gary Hynes, and last year’s gold medallist from our Vancouver competition, Chef Mark Filatow of Waterfront Restaurant and Wine Bar in Kelowna.

Taking the bronze medal was Terry Pichor of Sonora Resort on Sonora Island. Ambitiously, he included a foie-gras-filled raviolo on his plate, pulling off the textural challenge in a masterful way for the pasta was tender and the foie almost liquid. Under the raviolo was a cushion of duck leg confit surrounded by a rich butternut squash purée but the dish’s main focus were two slices of duck breast that chef had brined poached in duck fat with star anise, the pink meat ending up with the sleek and juicy texture of ham. A number of garnishes added nuance. Black garlic granola had a very fine texture, sprinkled onto the ravioli with a spoonful of the duck’s natural jus bolstered by a brunoise of pine mushroom. Candied squash seeds and a sprinkling of vividly purple young beet seedlings completed the plate. Chef Pichor chose Foxtrot Vineyard’s 2010 Pinot Noir from the Naramata Bench, a wine that picked up the mushrooms and brought a refreshing acidity to the dish.

Our silver medal was won by Darren Brown, executive chef of the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver. He worked with local Camp River Farms pork belly, deliberately grown to be leaner than most pork belly, confiting it in Kahlua and carving a thin slice that had a lovely crust and a flavour like first-class bacon. The meat lay on a pool of poi made not with the traditional starchy taro but with much lighter lotus root, coconut and heart of palm. Limning the poi was a second sauce, a sweet pineapple and maple-mustard glaze thickened by a syrup made from Chef’s chosen wine. Sprinkled on top were some tangy mustard seeds, slices of crunchy betel nut, a cross of puffed white pork cracklings and a scattering of dehydrated pineapple flecks that worked particularly well with the wine. A final flourish of welcome green came from a floret of baby bok choy. And the wine? An old friend – JoieFarm Winery’s delicious 2012 Noble Blend, an Alsatian-style melange of Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois and Schoenberger.

Who won gold? Chef Brian Skinner of The Acorn in Vancouver, who achieved the exceedingly rare feat of winning at GMP with a vegetarian dish. His dish was a casual assembly of pale drums, some of them cut from smoked king oyster mushrooms, others turning out to be confited potatoes. Thumbelina carrots had been roasted to soft caramelization while others had been turned into “carrot meringue” like shards of paper-thin wafer. Minute braised shallots no bigger than chickpeas were a sweet component while acidity came from dots of intensely flavoured sherry fluid gel. A combination of mushrooms were used to make the fragrant mushroom jus and the coup de grace was a scattering of wild-foraged watercress. The dish was relatively simple but most effective, with every ingredient coming from within 100 miles of his restaurant, and the wine pairing worked on many levels. Clos du Soleil’s 2012 Chegwin & Baessler Pinot Blanc is delightfully aromatic with a hint of sweetness that worked with the carrot and shallot components and a sly acidity boosted by the sherry gel, all in a fine balance.

All in all, Victoria provided a very welcoming and energized West Coast adventure and Chef Skinner will be just as welcome in Kelowna in February.

Skinner’s win came as a pleasant surprise. That’s not because I thought anyone did a more masterful job, but rather because his dish didn’t contain any meat. It was, without a doubt, pretty damn perfect, as was its alliance with the well chosen Pinot Blanc, and even though the selfish glutton in me thought his efforts could have been hugely improved by a flashed paillard of veal or a mere nugget of pork tenderloin, I scored him high across the board (as did, evidently, the rest of the judges on the panel). He absolutely deserved gold.

As to what the vegetarian chef will do when he’s supplied with a meat/fish at the Canadian Culinary Championships’ gruelling (no other word for it) Black Box competition this winter is beyond me. Many years ago at the same competition we had a nut-allergic competitor who discovered peanuts in his black box. He had to have his sous chef sub in for him, which was hardly ideal. Needless to say, I’m sure Skinner will figure it out when the lid comes off, and it will be exciting to watch happens next.

Chef Brian Skinner celebrates his Gold Medal win (serenaded by Barney Bentall and Jim Cuddy)TabulatingVista 18 | Garrett Schack's sweet potato beignet with honey chocolate and brown butter ice creamMy fellow senior judge, Sid Cross, topping upSonora Resort | Terry Pichor's excellent foie gras and butternut squash rav with duck, pines, and black garlic granolaForage | Chris Whittaker's mushroom medley with duck liver parfait and hazelnut soilTableau | Marc-Andre Choquette's gorgeous boudin with sweetbreads - so decadent!Fairmont Pacific Rim | Darren Brown's Kahlua pork belly with lotus root poi, pineapple maple mustard glaze, pork crackling and garlic greensMarina | Jeff Keenliside's crispy pork and scallop tataki with creamed yellow and pickled scarlett corn, savoy slaw and cracklingHudson's On First | Daniel Hudson's ballontine of local rabbit with pear mustard, rye croutons and picklesThe Acorn | Brian Skinner's winning dish of smoked king oyster mushrooms, braised shoots, carrots, and mushroom jusTeam KeenlisideRed Fish Blue Fish | Kunal Ghose's spot prawn head demi-cream with maple syrup and smoked salt cured salmon, shrimp and crab apple ball, quince and radish sproutsPidgin | Makoto Ono's onsen egg with smoked salmon roe, risotto, seaweed and black breadPidgin | Makoto Ono's onsen egg with smoked salmon roe, risotto, seaweed and black breadChef Makoto Ono presents his dishThe judges tableTeam PichorTeam ChoquetteTeam SkinnerTeam Ono

——————————————————————————–

DINER: Follow Scout Behind The Scenes At The 2013 Canadian Culinary Championships

February 6, 2013 

by Andrew Morrison | The Canadian Culinary Championships take place this weekend up in Kelowna. 10 of Canada’s top chefs will go head to head in three gruelling competitions. Each chef has already had to beat out a dozen of their local peers in Gold Medal Plates competitions from Vancouver to St. Johns.

Representing BC this year is chef Mark Filatow from Kelowna’s Waterfront Wine Bar. Filatow won the opportunity after besting many of BC’s top chefs, such as David Gunawan (Wildebeest), Angus An (Maenam), Quang Dang (West). He faces stiff competition from distant toques like Toronto’s Marc St. Jacques (Auberge du Pommier) and Montreal’s Daren Bergeron (Fou D’Ici), but he’ll have something they don’t have: a very enthusiastic hometown crowd.

I’ve long had the honour of being one of the two Senior Judges from BC (the other being my good friend Sid Cross). It’s also my responsibility to referee the competitions, which is always a different sort of thrill. Needless to say, I’m really excited. I’m actually typing this from the airport, en route a few days early in order to get re-acquainted with my fellow judges. If you want to follow along from the inside, you can keep track of things via @scoutmagazine on Twitter and Instagram. The hashtag for the weekend is #CCC2013.

DINER: Inside Chef Makoto Ono’s Highly Anticipated PiDGiN Restaurant In Gastown

by Andrew Morrison | I think the restaurant that I’m most excited about on our Anticipated Openings list is PiDGiN. It’s the upcoming Gastown effort from past Canadian Culinary Champion Makoto Ono. You might remember us breaking the news of its coming last summer:

Ono was the first to win gold at the Canadian Culinary Championships back in 2007. He’s been on the ascendancy ever since, opening the eponymous “Makoto” in Beijing and the celebrated “Liberty Private Works” in Hong Kong. He returned from China [in 2011] to guest chef at his father’s famed restaurant, Edohei, in Winnipeg. The revered sushi establishment closed in late February (Sadao retired), which freed Makato up for this project. There was some speculation that Makoto would head to Toronto, but lucky for us, he decided to return to Vancouver instead, where he went to culinary school and where his girlfriend works as a pastry chef.

I suspect that Pidgin, as the new restaurant is called, will be something of a summation of Ono’s career to date. The concept will see a hybrid of Japanese and French cuisine with a thread of Korean weaving throughout. The name alludes to the expression of that combination, and to Pigeon Park, which is right across the street.

The menu will offer share plates, from small to very large, priced from $10 to $25 per. The wine and cocktail program will be buttressed by a healthy supply of sake, baekseju and even soju, all designed to wrap neatly around the food conept. They keenly aware that Gastown is very much a cocktail-forward neighbourhood, and I suspect they’ll be putting a little skin in the game.

The project has been evolving since March, and plans for the redeveloped addresses of 350 Carrall (combining for some 1808 sqft) have already been submitted to the City. What they envision is a stylish 66 seater with a 10 seat bar. They’re also considering doing a chef’s table (which I wholeheartedly encourage them to do).

Ono is an incredibly gifted chef. He could have gone to Montreal or Toronto or decided to stay in China or Winnipeg, so it’s our good fortune that he picked a spot off Hastings instead. I say “good fortune” because I trust PiDGiN to be an above average dining experience. It won’t be traditional fine dining, but I do expect it to be one of the better restaurants in the city when it launches.

My hope is that it will be like a Japanese/Korean Bao Bei of sorts, the kind of place where cuisines are interpreted idiosyncratically but with respect by an experienced and imaginative chef whose confidence and competence sing loud and clear across on the plate. I definitely see that in every one of Ono’s plates presented in the photo gallery below (all the food shots are by TT Lui). This hope is also buoyed by Ono’s choice of designer: Craig Stanghetta, the same fellow (interview) responsible for the looks at Meat & Bread, Revolver, Clough Club, and Pizzeria Farina (he also had a hand in the stunning aesthetics at Bao Bei, so it’s not like I’m pulling my hope out of my ear…).

Beyond sharing a thought or two, the point of this post was fourfold: to let readers know that PiDGiN is on track to open in early February, to reveal some shots of the construction progress (hats off to the Tetherstone crew), to give some indication of Ono’s game by teasing some of the plates he has planned for opening day (without knowing what they are), and to make all of those individuals who are interested aware that opportunity knocks. To wit:

PiDGiN is looking for a Bartender and Lead Host/Hostess to join our opening team. The ideal Bartender will have an intimate knowledge of all classics and be ready to join a top notch team behind the wood. The ideal Host/Hostess will have previous restaurant experience and knowledge of OpenTable. Both candidates will have a passion for food and beverage, be self-motivated with a pro-active attitude, and share our commitment to offer our guests exceptional service. Please reply with your resume and availability details to resumes [at] pidginyvr.com.

Seeing how Gastown is ground zero in Western Canada’s cocktail culture, the bartending opportunities here are pretty huge. Though I’m keen to work my way through Ono’s menu (so I can at least discover what I’m looking at in Lui’s photos), I’m also looking forward to seeing who ends up on the wood. Less than a month to go…

PiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNPiDGiNMakoto Ono | PiDGiN

ALL ANTICIPATED OPENINGS

—————————————————————————————–

Andrew Morrison lives and works in Vancouver as editor-in-chief of Scout and National Referee & Judge at the Gold Medal Plates and Canadian Culinary Championships. He also contributes regularly to a wide range of publications, radio programs, and television shows on local food, culture and travel; collects inexpensive things; and enjoys rare birds, skateboards, cocktails, shoes, good pastas, many songs, and the smell of camp fires.

GOODS: Orofino’s 2009 Syrah Takes Gold Medal At Canadian Culinary Championships

February 16, 2012 

Orofino is located at 2152 Barcelo Road in beautiful Cawston, BC V0X 1C2 | (250) 499-0068 | www.orofinovineyards.com

The GOODS from Orofino Strawbale Winery

Vancouver, BC | Orofino’s 2009 Syrah won the Gold Medal at last weekend’s Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna. Winning chefs from 9 different regions across the country battled head to head to see who would win the gold, silver and bronze medals for top chef in the country. At the same time a trio of esteemed wine judges evaluated over 29 wines involved in the CCC events and judged Orofino’s Syrah to be top wine of the weekend.

“It is quite an honour for our winery in the Similkameen to be chosen as the gold medalist at this event as it was judged by some of the best palates in the country.” Says John and Virginia Weber, owners and winemakers. “We’d like to congratulate Murray and Maggie Fonteyne of Cawston’s Scout Vineyards for their terrific work in growing these grapes for us. This was their first crop of Syrah so we are very excited about syrah and its potential here in the Similkameen. These types of accolades bode well for future vintages!”

This is Orofino’s second win at the Gold Medal Plates, as their 2009 Riesling won top wine of the night in the Saskatchewan regional competition held last October. Details after the jump… Read more

GOODS: Feenie Wins Silver With Haywire At The 2012 Canadian Culinary Championships

February 16, 2012 

Okanagan Crush Pad is located at 16576 Fosbery Road in Summerland, BC | 250-494-4445 | okanagancrushpad.com

The GOODS from Okanagan Crush Pad

Kelowna, BC | BC’s own Chef Rob Feenie, food concept architect for Cactus Restaurants Ltd., won silver at the national Gold Medal Plates competition. Chef Feenie selected Haywire Winery’s Pinot Noir to pair with his dish at the Canadian Culinary Championship’s grand finale. Feenie captured a national silver medal when he and his team created a Fraser Valley rabbit duo – a rabbit bacon presse, with foie gras boudin, brown butter carrot puree and black truffle jus, accompanied by Haywire’s Pinot Noir at the Canadian Culinary Championships grand finale event for the Gold Medal Plates national competition. As the only competing chef from BC and paired with a BC winery, Chef Feenie took home the silver medal in front of the home crowd on Saturday night. The team from Haywire is especially proud: Chef Feenie also chose Haywire’s Pinot Gris for his dish at the Vancouver Gold Medal Plates competition last fall, where he captured the gold medal.

After nine competitions across the country, the winning chef from each of the nine cities met at the national competition. The winner of the gold and the Canadian Culinary Champion was chef Marc Lepine of Atelier Restaurant in Ottawa.

Winery owner Christine Coletta was “so proud to see Rob Feenie win the silver.” She notes, “it was great to see culinary talent from across Canada in the Okanagan, and to have our Okanagan wine be part of the silver medal win at home was priceless.” Read more

DINER: Follow Along From The Inside During The 2012 Canadian Culinary Championships

February 8, 2012 

by Andrew Morrison | I’m leaving early for Kelowna and the Canadian Culinary Championships (#CCC) this afternoon. It is Canada’s biggest cooking competition. It includes three bouts between the country’s best chefs over two gruelling days. We’ll of course be publishing during this time (and plenty), but I wanted to invite readers to follow along with the #CCC action on Scout’s social media accounts – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook – which I’ll be feeding quite a bit with photos and updates. For the past five years, wine guru Sid Cross and I have shared the honour of being the Senior Judges representing BC at the annual competition. I’ve also enjoyed being the National Referee (I don’t get a whip or a whistle, but they did give me a gold toothpick once, for real).

All told, we get to see and taste some pretty outstanding plates of superness, not to mention have quite a good time. If you’re really into food porn and fetishize the hell out of competitions, be sure to keep abreast so that you might salivate profusely over all the deliciousness that comes our way in relatively real time.

Here are the competitors. Remember that each of the following defeated 10 other regional heavyweights to get this far…

Winnipeg | Michael Dacquisto – WOW Hospitality
Montreal | Jean-Philippe St-Denis – Kitchen Galerie Poisson
Calgary | Michael Dekker – Rouge
Edmonton | Jan Trittenbach – Packrat Louie
Vancouver | Rob Feenie – Cactus Club
Saskatoon | Anthony McCarthy – Saskatoon Club
Toronto | Jonathan Gushue – Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa
Ottawa | Marc Lepine – Atelier
St. John’s | Mike Barsky – Bacalao

Past champions…

2011
GOLD: Martin Juneau of Newtown in Montreal
SILVER: Jeremy Charles of Raymonds in St. John’s
BRONZE: Robert Clark of C Restaurant in Vancouver

2009
GOLD Mathieu Cloutier – Kitchen Gallerie, Montréal
SILVER David Lee – Nota Bene
BRONZE Matthew Carmichael – Restaurant 18

2008
GOLD Hayato Okamitsu – Catch Restaurant, Calgary
SILVER Frank Pabst – Blue Water Café
BRONZE Deff Haupt – Le Renoir

2007
GOLD Melissa Craig – The Bearfoot Bistro, Whistler
SILVER Anthony Walsh – Canoe
BRONZE Roland Ménard – Manior Hovey

2006
GOLD Makoto Ono – Gluttons Bistro, Winnipeg
SILVER Michael Blackie – Perspectives Restaurant
BRONZE Mark McEwan – Bymark

The #CCC actually starts each autumn, as each major city across the nation puts their top toques through a local meat grinder called Gold Medal Plates. Net proceeds are given to the Canadian Olympic Foundation, which supports athletes and high performance programs such as Own the Podium. To date, over $5 million has been raised.

In Vancouver, beating out Ensemble’s Dale Mackay (again) and Bao Bei’s Joel Watanabe this year was the grand maestro, Rob Feenie of the Cactus Club. This is Feenie’s second time to the national dance, and I reckon he’s mighty keen to take home the elusive gold. For an explainer as to how the whole shebang works, here’s a video diary I shot from a few years back at the competition in Banff, when Vancouver was being represented by Frank Pabst of Yaletown’s Blue Water Cafe. As you can see, winning ain’t easy, and Montreal’s been on a roll…

Months of efforts end on Saturday night. If you haven’t purchased tickets, our Twitter is where you’ll hear which chef won bronze, silver and gold (in that order) first, so keep in touch.

GOODS: Local Four Seasons Chef Ned Bell Gets Ready For Friday’s “Gold Medal Plates”

November 1, 2011 

YEW Restaurant is located in the Four Seasons Vancouver at 791 West Georgia St | 604.692.4939 | YewRestaurant.com

The GOODS from YEW restaurant + bar

Vancouver, BC | The culinary team at YEW restaurant + bar and Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver are very excited to compete in Gold Medal Plates this Friday evening, November 4. Led by Executive Chef Ned Bell, a previous event competitor, this represents Four Seasons’ first time in the culinary challenge. Truly a battle of Vancouver’s very best, Bell will be competing against ten very accomplished chefs from British Columbia. YEW restaurant + bar and Four Seasons Vancouver are paired up with BC wine phenomenon, Black Hills Estate Winery. Bell and his team, which includes executive sous chef Craig Dryhurst and sommelier Emily Walker, have been working hard to wow guests, judges and Olympians.  ”We have upped our game,” says Bell.  ”We can’t wait to showcase YEW’s new seafood concept and the talent and innovation on our team with a sophisticated twist on ‘surf and turf.’” Of course the specifics must remain confidential until Friday evening. Good luck team! Read more

GOODS: “C” Restaurant Tabling New Menu Of Robert Clark’s Medal Winning Dishes…

C is located at 2-1600 Howe St on the False Creek seawall in Vancouver BC | 604-681-1164 | www.crestaurant.com

The GOODS from “C” Restaurant

Vancouver, BC | C proprietor Harry Kambolis has launched a new four course tasting menu following Robert Clark’s podium-finish at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna. The dishes born of the infamous Black Box and Mystery Wine competitions make up the first three courses. (In the first competition, the chefs had to cook with the unknown ingredients within; in the second, they had to build a dish that matched La Stella Fortissimo, 2008). The pièce de résistance is the citrus glazed Fraser Valley quail breast, leg ballotine, French toast, crisp quail egg and consommé. Read more

Gobbling Food Porn At Canada’s Biggest Culinary Competition…

February 22, 2011 

by Andrew Morrison | This past weekend, the final three legs of the Gold Medal Plates series of national cooking competitions took place in Kelowna. Together, they are known as the Canadian Culinary Championships. Each of the eight competing chefs had won their right to be there on account of their victories against peers in their respective cities from Vancouver to St. John’s late in 2010. They were…

Rob Clark from “C” Restaurant in Vancouver
Duncan Ly from Hotel Arts in Calgary
Andrew Fung from Blackhawk Golf Club in Edmonton
Dan Walker from Weczeria in Saskatoon
Frank Dodd from Hillebrand Winery in Toronto
Michael Moffatt from Beckta in Ottawa
Martin Juneau from Newtown in Montreal
Jeremy Charles from Raymond’s St. John’s

I flew up early on Wednesday to join my colleagues on the judging panel at Sparkling Hills Resort, a stunner of a spa retreat resplendent with millions of Swarovski crystals embedded in everything from chair backs, waterfalls, doors, light fixtures, fireplaces and just about every other facet of the resort that wasn’t edible, drinkable or made of fabric (though I did hear mention of a curtain or two). Because it’s beyond Winfield, over the hills and seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it was a fabulously bizarre and wonderfully exceptional experience anchored by some surprisingly top drawer food (courtesy of their chef, Ross Derrick), a full service spa (including a three minute, -110 degree treatment that I said no thanks to), incredible views, and tempur-pedic beds in our rooms next to infinity tubs (that I said yes please to). It was such a remarkable place that it was rather sad to have to call it quits after just 24 hours, but duty called. We headed back down to Kelowna on Thursday afternoon, and from here I’ll let my photos and my friend James Chatto tell the tale… Read more

Martin Juneau Of Montreal Wins Gold At The 2011 Canadian Culinary Championships

February 20, 2011 

It’s been a grueling weekend up here in Kelowna at the Canadian Culinary Championships (and boy is my palate tired). Here are your winners: with the Bronze medal, it’s Vancouver’s own Robert Clark of “C” Restaurant; winning the Silver is Jeremy Charles of Raymond’s in St. John’s; and taking home the Gold is Martin Juneau of Montreal’s Newtown. I’ll post over 100 photos later and provide some details as to how it all went down soon, but in the meantime it’s time to board a plane for the ride home. Congratulations to all the chef competitors and a big thank you to the people of Kelowna for hosting us and putting on a wonderful show.

The First Competition Is Now Underway At The 2011 Canadian Culinary Championships

February 18, 2011 

Day Three of the Canadian Culinary Championships is now underway up here in Kelowna. The judging and refereeing part of it starts for me this afternoon when the chefs return from shopping for ingredients with which they will pair a mystery wine that was given to them without a label last night. The shot above is of all the competitors – this year’s top toques from Vancouver to St. Johns – assembled at Quail’s Gate Winery (note the wine boxes each one is holding). To see who they are and browse many more photos taken from the inside, I’m keeping a running tab of things on our Facebook page here.

Next Page »