by Andrew Morrison | Tonight it is Vancouver’s turn to host the Gold Medal Plates, Canada’s most prestigious cooking competition series. Identical competitions in different cities across the country have already taken place, and all the victors have been decided, except Vancouver’s. It’s kind of a big deal, as the winner from each city is invited to compete in the Canadian Culinary Championships in February. I’ve listed tonight’s competitors below. Who among them do you think will take gold?
The action goes down tonight at the Westin Bayshore, and as a Senior Judge I’ll be keeping Scout readers posted of developments from the inside. Make sure you’re following us on Twitter and Instagram. I’ll post photos of each dish and Tweet out who wins gold, silver, and bronze at the same time that the names are revealed to the crowd.
The GOODS from RauDZ Regional Table
Kelowna, BC | Praised by head judge James Chatto for his staunch localism, Chef Rod Butters of RauDZ Regional Table took his ‘blueprint for supporting local’ to the Vancouver edition of Gold Medal Plates 2011. The GMP is the ultimate celebration of Canadian excellence in cuisine, wine, sport and entertainment. The Vancouver competition is one of nine that will be staged across Canada raising funds for the Canadian Olympic Foundation.
The much-talked about ‘local’ plate showcased Chevon (goat) raised espressly for the competition by Takoff Farm in the Joe Rich area of Kelowna, with Chef Butters creating a curried shoulder, apricot chutney sausage, masala loin with quinoa and chevre and chai reduction. The entire plate (except salt) was from the Okanagan with many of the items grown specifically for this competition. Read more
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
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
I recently arrived at the wow-worthy Sparkling Hill Resort and you better believe that I’m still unpacking my head from this pretty amazing bath. It is the first of four nights away as I and several colleagues get down to the business of judging the Canadian Culinary Championships.
It’s going to be a lot of fun, but I have the extra task of refereeing the competitions, so the work is actually a little more demanding than most would assume. Consequently, rather than writing hourly posts on Scout to update you on how things are coming along (eg. how local boy Rob Clark of “C” Restaurant and his competitors are doing), I’ll be micro-blogging on Twitter (follow us) instead and posting updates and photos to our brand spanking new Facebook page (for those who tweet, let’s use the hashtag #CCC2011).
For some flavour of the event, watch the video above from last year.
by Andrew Morrison | The Vancouver Gold Medal Plates went down at the Sheraton Wall Center last night. The chefs vying for gold and the opportunity to compete at February’s Canadian Culinary Championships were as follows: Neil Taylor (Cibo Trattoria), Quang Dang (Diva at the Met), Darren Brown (Coast), Nico Schuermans (Chambar), Cam Smith and Dana Ewart (Joy Road), Nicholas Nutting (The Pointe at the Wickaninnish Inn), Roger Sleiman (Quails’ Gate Winery), Stuart Klassen (Delta Grand) and Robert Clark (C Restaurant). The wineries in pairing action were all local: LaStella, Black Hills, Sandhill, Aces, Tantalus, Painted Rock, 8th Generation, Quails’ Gate, Laughing Stock, and Foxtrot.
It was the fastest GMP I’d ever judged. At our table (joined by last year’s winner, Rob Feenie, and sequestered away from the 700+ crowd), we plowed through the 10 dishes in just under two hours. We saw very little in the way of drama, but there was some negligence. One dish arrived stone cold, another was fumbled in delivery, and one of the wine pairings arrived corked (swiftly replaced). Temperature aside, there certainly weren’t any duds in the lot; the level of cooking being absolutely top drawer.
We structured the order with the gentlest flavours and lighter whites starting us off and the bolder reds (both meats and wines) shutting us down. Scoring was done for presentation (20 points), texture (20 points), taste (30 points), wine compatibility (10 points), originality (10 points), and wow factor (10 points), adding up to a possible 100 points. The lowest score that I gave was 62, while my highest was 83. The judges scores for each chef/dish are added up at the end in a private room, and the math determines who wins.
On Friday, October 29th at Vancouver’s Wall Center, 10 of BC’s best chefs will compete at the Gold Medal Plates competition for the opportunity to represent our province at the Canadian Culinary Championships, held in Kelowna on February 18th and 19th. Each year, Sid Cross and I are asked for our input on who should be invited to compete, and I’m thrilled by the final list, which sees great representation from Vancouver, the Okanagan, and Vancouver Island. They are…
Darren Brown | Coast
Robert Clarke | C Restaurant
Quang Dang | Diva at the Met
Stuart Klassen | Delta Grand, Kelowna
Dale MacKay | Lumière
Nicholas Nutting | The Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino
Nico Schuermans | Chambar
Roger Sleiman | Quails’ Gate Winery, Kelowna
Cam Smith & Sana Ewart | Joy Road, Penticton
Neil Taylor | Cibo Trattoria
If you want to see how it all went down last year, click here. For all the ticket, time and date details of the coming comp, click here. Also, take a look at the video we shot last year to show what it’s like behind the scenes of the national championships…
I’m very sorry that it has taken me so long to throw this video together. I had several gigs of footage and photos and no time to splice and dice this week, plus I didn’t want to have it up before my story about the Canadian Culinary Championships was published in the paper (yesterday). Alas, it is done now (albeit in a hurry), a referee/judge’s eye view of the proceedings from the very start to the very end. I hope you enjoy it and the many dozens of photos below. My friend and colleague James Chatto (head judge) has written a thorough synopsis, one which my skills could never match, so I’ve included it in its entirety after the pictures. Read more
UPDATE: Mathieu Cloutier of Montreal’s “Kitchen Gallery” won
I’ve been buried judging and refereeing the Canadian Culinary Championships for the last two days so I apologise for the lack of posts/updates. The seven competing chefs finished the wine pairing competition last night at Republic (the mystery wine being the Black Hills “Alibi”), and the Black Box competition has just finished here at The Sheraton Wall Center.
Who’s competing? Each winning chef from the seven Gold Medal Plates competitions held this Fall across the country:
Vancouver | Rob Feenie
Ottawa | Matthew Carmichael
Montreal | Mathieu Cloutier
Edmonton | Nathin Bye
Canmore | Jan Hrabec
St. Johns | Ivan Kyutukchiev
Toronto | David Lee
My friend Sid Cross and I were tasked with choosing today’s 6 mystery ingredients, and we came up with a vicious assortment: fresh fennel, dragon fruit, whole jumbo quail, arctic char, arborio rice, and bottle of R&B Brewing Co.’s “Hoppelganger” India Pale Ale. The chefs had only 10 minutes to dream up two dishes that would incorporate all of the ingredients, and then just 50 minutes to prepare them. It was intense, to say the least, and the results across the board were remarkably impressive. What’s more, only one chef was injured (a minor nick to an Edmontonian index finger). A good day.
I’ll have more on the morrow, but in the meantime I have to head back down to the kitchens to ensure the rules are being followed to the letter. I’ll be tweeting updates on my cell throughout the evening, so if you’re not yet following Scout on Twitter, please do. You’ll be among the first to learn who the new national culinary champion is later tonight.
PS. Rest assured, Video and hundreds of photos won’t be too far behind. If you have no clue what any of this is about and would like to see more, I’ve included a video that I shot from last year’s CCC, held in Banff, Alberta. Check it out after the jump… Read more
“Comeback” might be a bit of a loaded word, but it fits to an arguable degree. After Rob Feenie left his eponymous Feenie’s restaurant and flagship Lumiere two years ago and landed as the Food Concept Architect for the Cactus Club chain, it could have easily been assumed that he had bought a one way ticket to the wilderness of the restaurant world. But last night, at the prestigious Vancouver Gold Medal Plates cooking competition, he bested nine of BC’s greatest chefs and reminded this town of his incredibly refined talent by taking gold. And he totally deserved it. Read more
The province’s biggest cooking competition, the Vancouver Gold Medal Plates, will take place this October 23rd at the The Westin Bayshore Hotel. On that night 10 of the region’s most celebrated chefs will compete for the coveted opportunity to represent BC at November’s Canadian Culinary Championships (also in Vancouver).
See who they are after the leap… Read more
I’ve put together a little compilation of short clips and stills from my trip to the Canadian Culinary Championships in Banff this past weekend (bloggers, feel free to embed). You can read the live blog here, but since I’ve left out many descriptions of the dishes, I’ve included my friend and colleague James Chatto’s synopsis of the full weekend below. It covers just about everything, and is written with an ability that I can’t possibly match.
Take it away James…
Gold Medal Plates Canadian Culinary Championship was held at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel over the weekend of February 19 to 21. It was the ideal location for the competition – vast yet self-contained, with huge well-equipped kitchens and dramatic public rooms large enough to accommodate the hundreds of guests who came to observe and take part in the events. The hotel’s executive chef, Martin Luthi, was a most generous host, providing everything we asked for, from the exclusive use of his busy banquet kitchen for three days to a dozen apprentices.
The competitors were the chefs who had triumphed at the Gold Medal Plates regional events across the country in the autumn of 2008. Here are their names, in alphabetical order, with a little information about their backgrounds supplied by the senior judge from each chef’s respective city.
David Cruz is chef of Sage and won the Edmonton GMP event. David was destined to become a world-class chef. With both his mother and father accomplished chefs and restaurateurs, he was groomed from a young age in the culinary arts. His enthusiasm and passion for food and cooking eventually led him to the River Cree Resort and Casino’s fine-dining haven, Sage. Prior to this he worked at La Cote Basque, Boulevard, Mary Elaine’s, Evergreen and Simon Telluride, also at such restaurants as Masa’s, Tru, Charlie Trotter’s, Daniel, Motos, San Dominico, Spagos and La Folie. A key for David is respecting the source of the ingredients and keeping the chain from small growers and farmers to the restaurant table alive and well.
Deff Haupt is chef of Le Renoir at Le Sofitel hotel in Montreal. Born in Dortmund, Germany, Deff Haupt, age 42, apprenticed at the Hilton International in Mainz, Germany, and then worked for Emile Jung in Strasbourg, Paul Bocuse in Lyon, and Joel Robuchon in Paris before moving to Chile to work at a ski resort at Vallenevado. During that period, he trained the Brazilian team of chefs for the Bocuse d’Or culinary competition and married a Brazilian wife. Next stop was a ski resort at Val d’Isere, and then Berlin, where he was co-owner of a German-French brasserie near the Brandenburg Gate. Although his Berlin restaurant was a success and his guests at different times included George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger, he moved to Canada in 2005 with the dream of opening a small restaurant in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. Le Sofitel beckoned in 2006 before that dream became a reality. Now Executive Chef of Hotel Le Sofitel and Restaurant Renoir, Montreal, Haupt describes his cuisine as French-based with German touches. He avoids endangered fish species and serves as much local Quebec food as he can.
Patrick Lin is Executive Chef of Senses restaurant in Toronto, the jewel in the crown of the Metropolitan Hotel. Lin was born in Hong Kong, and has spent much of his career shuttling between Hong Kong and Toronto. Gray Kunz was an early mentor for him at the Regency Hotel, where he embarked on his career in 1980; a decade later, he immigrated to Canada and became the chef at Truffles restaurant at the Four Seasons during executive chef Susan Weaver’s tenure. Since then, he has returned to Hong Kong several times. In 2007, he came back to Toronto to take over the helm at Senses restaurant. He is best known for combining Asian ingredients with classic European techniques.
Hayato Okamitsu is chef of Catch Restaurant & Oyster Bar in Calgary. “The dreams of a young Japanese Chef can become a reality,” write Adam Geml and Pat Insole. “After six years of unstinting dedication to Catch Restaurant & Oyster Bar, Hayato Okamitsu was named Executive Chef in 2008. Hayato has created Japanese-influenced dishes such as Wonton Crusted Tempura Prawns with Togaroshi Dip which quickly became a Catch signature dish and is still the most popular appetizer after seven years on the menu. Hayato’s creativity shone through at Calgary’s Gold Medal Plates Competition when his dish was the most ambitious of the night in terms of complexity, but truly set a record when it became the first vegetarian dish to win the Gold Medal honour.
Frank Pabst is chef of Blue Water Café in VancouverA master of local seafood, Frank Pabst came to Vancouver in 1993 after working in several Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe (among them Aachen’s Le Becasse, the Hotel Negresco in Cannes, and Antibes’ Restaurant de Bacon). He led the kitchen at Lumiere as chef de cuisine before opening Pastis in 2000, which won Best New Restaurant at that year’s Vancouver magazine restaurant awards. As the executive chef at Blue Water Café since 2003, Pabst is recognised in the industry as a leader in celebrating local producers and sustainable-savvy fishermen.
Charles Part is owner-chef of Les Fougères and won GMP’s Ottawa-Gatineau event. His first restaurant was in Toronto, a little gem in the Beaches called Loons. Together with his wife, Jennifer Warren-Part, Charles has been the chef-owner of Les Fougères in the village of Chelsea, Quebec (12 minutes from Parliament Hill) since 1993. Charles is British by birth, received his culinary training at the Westminster Hotel School and had his first restaurant experiences in London, UK. Charles and Jennifer’s 2008 book, A Year at Les Fougères, won gold in the Canadian Food Culture category at the 2008 Cuisine Canada’s Book Awards.
The chefs were all introduced at a small reception at the hotel on Thursday night. They introduced their sous chefs to the gathering (each chef was allowed to bring two from his restaurant, though Chef Cruz opted to bring only one friend). Then our host, Chef Luthi, introduced the apprentices who would assist each chef. It was also a chance for me to introduce my panel of judges…
From Montreal, Julian Armstrong, food writer for The Gazette and a founding member of both Cuisine Canada and the Association of Food Journalists. She is the author of A Taste of Quebec.
From Ottawa, Anne Desbrisay, restaurant critic of the Ottawa Citizen for the last 17 years. She writes about food, restaurants and travel for many publications and for CBC radio and is the author of Capital Dining, a Guide to restaurants in the National Capital Region.
From Toronto, Sasha Chapman, former food editor of Toronto Life who now writes regular columns about food in the Globe & Mail, Toronto Life and Report on Business Magazine as well as major U.S. and Canadian magazines such as Saveur and Chatelaine.
From Vancouver, Sid Cross is the wine and food guru for Western Living magazine and is a world-renowned wine and food judge. He has been honoured by the French and Italian governments and is the only Canadian to be awarded The Gourmet of the Year by The Society of Bacchus in the USA.
From Edmonton, Clayton Folkers is a world-class pastry chef, international judge and educator, and was the first pastry chef to captain the Canadian National Culinary Team. He has captained Culinary Team Alberta and Culinary Team Canada to gold medals, won the IKA Culinary Olympics and was twice named Canadian Chef of the Year.
From Calgary, John Gilchrist is a familiar voice on CBC Radio. He’s also the author of eight national best-sellers on dining in southern Alberta. He has a column in the Calgary Herald, writes for dozens of magazines and teaches Food and Culture programs for the University of Calgary.
Last but not least, from Vancouver, Andrew Morrison is the restaurant critic for the Westender newspaper, the editor of Scout Magazine, and a regular contributor to Western Living and Vancouver magazines. He had a special role this weekend as our culinary referee, making sure all rules were followed during and between the three competitions.
The Thursday evening reception was the start of the first of these three events, the Wine Pairing Challenge. Each chef was given a bottle of the same wine with no label and an unmarked stopper. All they knew about it was that it was Canadian and that GMP’s National Wine Advisor, David Lawrason, had selected it especially for the competition. The chefs were instructed to taste the wine and devise a dish that would perfectly match it. They had 24 hours to do this but there were certain added provisos that made the task a little more challenging. We asked them to make enough of their dish to feed 235 people (the number of guests at our Friday evening party) and we told them they were only allowed to spend a very small amount of money on ingredients – $350. They could go shopping wherever they wanted – in Banff, Canmore, Calgary – anywhere except in the hotel where we were staying. They could be as ingenious and creative as they wished with their shopping but they had to present us with receipts for everything they purchased. To mitigate things a little, we provided a communal pantry of basic seasonings, herbs, spices, oils and stocks, etcetera.
The Wine Pairing Challenge
On Friday evening, the event took place in the baronial splendour of the hotel’s Mount Stephen Hall. The chefs’ stations were arranged around the room. The guests were able to taste the mystery wine (later revealed as Inniskillin Okanagan Malbec 2005) and each of the dishes.
Deff Haupt took everyone by surprise by deciding to match this dense, hearty red wine with fish. He cooked a fillet of red snapper perfectly, leaving it juicy and sweet under a savoury crust of cinnamon, an element he had detected in the wine. For a sauce he made a red wine butter and a white wine butter which swirled together on the plate, both of them with a lovely silky weight and a well-judged citrus edge. The two colours of purple and white were echoed throughout the dish. Tangy, acidulated, finely chopped beets formed another bridge into the wine. The dish was finished with a little wilted spinach on top. The sauces, beets and cinnamon worked admirably with the wine, but the flavour of the actual fish struggled to make itself apparent.
David Cruz braised pork shoulder, giving it a delicious sweet flavour and a variety of textures. Beneath it he set a semi-purée of Tuscan cannelini beans topped with juicy chopped chard and sautéed crimini mushrooms that were particularly good with the wine. A streak of yellow carrot purée lacked flavour and focus, as did a streak of green basil oil. Crunchy shallots were the final garnish. The general lack of edge and acidity in the flavours of the food actually brought out those qualities in the wine a little more, accentuating its fruitiness.
Hayato Okamitsu also chose to work with pork, roasting a pork shoulder to tender succulence then slicing it for the plate. Working within his budget, he made peppery hand-pressed gnocchi (he found considerable pepperiness in the wine, as did several of the chefs). His sauce was a rich brown butter spiked with finely chopped beets. Some judges felt he served a little too much sauce for the dish. A few leaves of arugula proved a refreshing little garnish. On top lay a bacon and thyme “maxime” like a crisp transparent tissue of herbed bacon that was utterly delicious. The dish worked well with the wine, its homespun flavours in a good balance with the wine’s intensity.
Patrick Lin prepared a relatively complex plate. He roasted a leg of lamb seasoned with garlic and cumin – it was delectably tender and sapid but perhaps a little too pungently “lamby” for the wine. Beside it he made a meat ball of miced pork stuffed with crab meat (subtle but fabulous and a better match than the lamb). The meatball was set on a disc of king oyster mushroom scored with a knife for textural interest. On top a single rasher of bacon had been crisped with honey. On the bottom two mustard greens provided green crunch and refreshment – lovely for the dish, irrelevent to the wine. The natural jus of the lamb was refreshed with diced granny smith apple.
Charles Part also chose lamb, carefully sourced from a farm outside Calgary. He cooked the shoulder sous vide, its flavour ending up a tad more subtle than Patrick Lin’s roast. The jus was enriched by whole cloves of roast garlic, blackcurrants and a brunoise of root vegetables. A minted pea risotto had a perfect texture and seemed like a breath of summer. On top of the lamb, a bright green teaspoonful of salsa verde made with fresh herbs and anchovy was a deliciously intense condiment. Presentation was pretty and the dish’s internal balances were very well achieved. Some judges felt it was too big a dish for the wine. If it had been a Cabernet Sauvignon, it would have been more successful but this soft Malbec turned out to be less powerful and structured than it appeared to be at first sniff.
Frank Pabst created a cabbage roll filled with a subtly flavoured mince of braised elk, pork shoulder and double smoked bacon. He bought two more bottles of the wine from Gold Medal Plates (at a price of $30 per bottle) and added them to the jus to create the dish’s sauce. A celeriac and apple purée had a lovely fresh, rooty flavour. A mix of black rice and carrot, interestingly, produced a flavour close to sweet corn. On top was a mound of crunchy purple beet “straw”.
The guests voted that night for a “people’s choice” favourite, an award that went to Charles Part, by a considerable margin. The judges kept their marks private but Hayato Okamitsu was in first place with three other chefs clustered a few percentage points behind him – Charles Part, Deff Haupt and Patrick Lin.
The Black Box
Saturday morning brought the intensity and drama of the Black Box competition, where each chef is given an identical group of secret ingredients. They must devise two dishes that will use these ingredients (all six must be used, though not necessarily in the same dish) and they have one hour to finish the dishes and plate one of each for each of the judges. Points would be deducted for failure to use all ingredients, for going over the allotted time by even a few seconds and for failing to provide the requisite number of dishes. Each chef was allowed to use only one assistant.
There was room in the hotel’s banquet kitchen for three chefs to work at one time and for the crowd of fifty guests and camera crews, but we staggered the chefs working time to allow a 15-minute gap between each start time and a longer break in the middle so there were never more than three chefs competing at any one time. While the judges sat apart in the kitchen’s servery, the chefs set to work.
The six mystery ingredients had been chosen by Gold Medal Plates regional senior judge, John Gilchrist. They had to be local Alberta product and we asked for a meat, a fish, a grain, a fruit, a vegetable and a dairy product. His selection was challenging indeed – a kilo of organically raised Alberta pork tenderloin with a good fat cap on it; three farmed rainbow trout, gutted but with heads on; a bag of rolled oats; a bottle of saskatoonberry syrup (fresh local fruit being impossible to find in Alberta in February); a bag of fabulously sweet, crunchy organic carrots; a substantial wedge of a local gouda cheese, recently voted the fourth best gouda in the world at the cheese championship in Wisconsin.
First up was chef David Cruz. He filleted his trout, rolled the fillets in ground oats and served it with the carrots which he had prepared two ways, candied and as a deliciously spiced savoury purée with some real chili heat. For his second dish, he roasted the pork medium rare, sliced it and sauced it with a beurre spiked by the saskatoonberry syrup. He turned the gouda into a golden crisp that he used to garnish the pork.
Chef Hayato Okamitsu was next. He mixed the oatmeal with sesame and used it as a crust for the trout fillets. He turned the carrots into a purée scented with ginger from the communal pantry, added some wilted spinach and a rich brown butter sauce spiked with soy, clove and the saskatoonberry syrup. Visually, it was an exceptionally pretty dish. His herb-rubbed roast pork loin was sliced and set over a ragout of finely diced potato flavoured with shallots and the gouda and sharpened with a dash of a mustard and sherry vinaigrette.
Chef Charles Part was the third competitor. He rolled his trout fillets in the oats and pan-fried them, timing them to a perfect point of juiciness. He also borrowed pantry items, serving the fish with spinach and a confit of lemons that brightened the plate and the palate. For his second dish, he cut the pork into escalopes and sandwiched gouda in between then rolled the meat in panko crumbs and pan-fried it until the cheese melted. He used the saskatoonberry syrup carrots and other pantry vegetables to create a pickle that he served with the pork and crowned it with a perfectly timed poached egg. Its runny yolk formed the sauce for the pork dish.
Chef Patrick Lin aced the texture of the trout which he served as a sort of melt, crowned with molten gouda. Butter-sautéed spinach shared the plate and he sauced it with a lightweight tomato-herb bouillon. For his pork dish he pounded the meat into schnitzels, coated them with oats and deep-fried them, fisnishing the plate with a sauce meuniere and carrots spiked with the saskatoonberry syrup.
Chef Deff Haupt stuffed the pork tenderloin with gouda and fines herbes and roasted it off, slicing it and crowning the plate with a gouda crisp. He braised the carrots and scented them with curry spices, saucing the dish with a beef stock and rosemary jus spiked with saskatoonberry syrup. The trout fillets were simply pan-seared, which brought out their flavour beautifully, then set atop a sturdy galette of grated potato and oat flakes. He opted to make a version of the classic sauce Albertine using the pantry stocks hit with butter and herbs.
Chef Frank Pabst finished the competition. He coolly brined his pork loin for 20 minutes to tenderize the meat and served it with a delicious saskatoonberry gastrique sharpened with sherry vinegar, thyme and shallots. He used the gouda as a subtle component of a classic Pommes Anna, the tissue-thin potatoes fanned and pan-fried. Braised baby carrots picked up hints of ginger and shallot from their braising liquid. His trout fillets arrived crusted with mustard-spiked oatmeal then panfried. He set the fish over a delectable onion soubise, a little baby spinach and topped it with a clever crisp of the fried trout skin.
The judges were impressed by all the dishes, though they wondered why no one had thought to use the oats as a biscuit or be a tad more creative with the pork. Three chefs scored particularly highly in the black box competition: Hayato Okamitsu, Frank Pabst and Deff Haupt. But going into the third and final element of the competition it was still anyone’s race.
The Grand Finale
For this event, each chef was allowed to create any dish he wished, the limits set only by his own imagination and the fact that he only had Saturday afternoon to pull the masterpiece together. He could bring in whatever ingredients he wished but he had to prepare enough to serve 300 guests and he could only be assisted by his two sous chefs (one in David Cruz’s case) and his two hotel apprentices. Wine pairing was again a component. Each chef was instructed to work with the same winery he had chosen to pair with during the regional events, though not restricted to the same wine.
Chef Deff Haupt presented three ethereal cornmeal gnocchi, light as any mousseline, smothered in a nutmeg-spiked parmesan sabayon and strewn with crispy little nuggets of pan-fried sweetbreads. Black winter truffle was grated over the dish and it was finished with a dramatic spiral of sweet tuile and some whisps of wheatgrass. His wine was from Prince Edward County, Ontario – Black Prince Winery’s First Crush unoaked Chardonnay 2005.
Chef Frank Pabst chose to showcase the great seafood of the west coast. His plate consisted of three elements – the first a gorgeous raw kushi oyster, out of its shell and set on a mound of chopped cucumber jelly, topped with horseradish foam. A slice of raw Qualicum Bay scallop was turned into a delicate ceviche, its natural sweetness perfectly balanced against the tart citrus of the dressing. Beneath it was a spoonful of salad made from green seaweed and fine shavings of Humboldt squid. The third element was a cold parfait of sea urchin, its marine pungency mitigated by a cap of ponzu jelly. Dotted here and there were tiny amounts of green onion, preserved watermelon rind, black dots of a sauce made from sake, soy and nori, and a dab of tangy yuzu-sake “pudding”. Chef Pabst paired his dish with Sumac Ridge Stella’s Jay Brut 2004 sparkling wine from B.C.
Chef Hayato Okamitsu also presented a triptych. The first component looked like a cube-shaped chocolate smothered in a glossy black sauce. It turned out to be Alberta beef short rib braised sukiyake-style with a profound soy-based sauce. A finger of Quebec foie gras torchon gained extra flavour from a light soy cure; Chef served it on a tiny morsel of toast. A demitasse held a spectacularly rich and intense lobster bisque. Across the rim of the cup a lattice sesame crisp supported a shiso-scented B.C. spot prawn, out-of-season but still charming to most of the judges. A dab of ginger-yuzu “pudding” was as intense as any of the powerful flavours on the plate. Sumac Ridge Private Reserve Merlot 2005 was a fine match for the beef.
Chef David Cruz began with flatiron steak cut from Alberta kobe cattle. He grilled it rare and sliced it delicately – it proved surprisngly tender. On top he laid a julienne of carrot, apple, radish and micro greens. Two sauces competed for attention – a tangy lime emulsion and a rich dark shiitake sweet-and-sour sauce, made even more irresistible with brown sugar, garlic and Szechuan pepper. He astonished the judges by pairing it with See Ya Later Ranch Chardonnay 2007, a coup that proved surprisingly successful.
Chef Charles Part presented a dish he described as the dish he would choose for his last meal – “it means that much to me…” Its principal was a generous helping of confited Quebec moulard duck, rich, tender and moist with a skin that was crisp where it needed to be and fatty elsewhere. The flavour was wonderful, the sweetness enhanced by threads of orange zest. It sat on a thick disc of cooked pear with a spoonful of soft, tangy chevre cheese at its hollowed heart. Beneath that was an Agria potato rösti. The dish was finished with some forthright spinach and a delicious sauce of New Brunswick partridgeberries zapped with vinegar to become a classy ketchup. This dish was honest-to-goodness bistro taken to the bistro extreme. Some judges loved its democratic lack of fuss; others found it too plain. Chef Part paired it with a Prince Edward County wine, Huff Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005, made with Niagara grapes.
Chef Patrick Lin also offered duck – an extraordinary and complex five-part treatment of Ontario King Cole duck, to be precise. On a silver spoon was a sliver of sweet, cured, oolong-tea-smoked duck breast. A round slice of duck galantine using the duck’s neck was garnished with a dot of kumquat compote and a slender lotus root crisp. Cured duck breast appeared with a Thai-style fruit salad all arranged on a round disc of iceberg lettuce – a refreshing, texturally complex mouthful that played with the fresh sweetness and tartness of the fruits and the salty fat of the cured duck. A foie gras ball had been rolled in a crust of crushed candied walnuts and then set on a cone of crisp wonton wrapper like some angelic ice cream cornet. The final iteration of the canard was a hollowed eggshell filled with a loose, lightweight foie gras custard brûlée topped with a sugestion of dried tangerine peel. The last component was amazingly delicious with the chosen Inniskillin Niagara Cabernet Franc Icewine 2006 – the weekend’s most obvious wine-food epiphany. Chef Lin also presented a second wine – Jackson Triggs Okanagan Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 that worked well with the smoked breast.
Opinion was divided about Chef Lin’s dish. Some of us felt it was a three-Michelin-star effort; others found it too much, with one or two elements too many. When the scores were fed into the number cruncher, however, Chef Lin’s dish won the day at the Grande Finale. Would that be enough to win the entire Championship? The judges retired to a quiet room and the math was done. The honour fell to me to return to the crowded ball room and make the announcement. First, I invited the retiring champion, Chef Melissa Craig, up on stage. Melissa had travelled across the country with us during the 2008 Gold Medal Plates campaign, cooking for the VIP reception in each city, and had proved a delightful companion, a great sport (even when half her crabs were left out of the refrigerator in Calgary) and a true champion. I speak for the entire GMP organisation when I say that she will always be part of our team.
Joining us on stage was GMP CEO, Stephen Leckie and representatives of our two title sponsors, Denise Carpenter of Epcor and Mark Toner of GE. Then came the moment of truth. When all the numbers were crunched, the bronze medal went to Deff Haupt of Le Renoir in the Sofitel hotel, Montreal. The silver medal went to Frank Pabst of Blue Water Café in Vancouver. And the gold medal was awarded to Hayato Okamitsu of Catch in Calgary. He becomes the new Canadian Culinary Champion.
Andrew Morrison is a west coast boy who studied history and classics at the Universities of Cape Town and Toronto after an adolescence spent riding skateboards and working in restaurants. He is the editor of Scout Magazine, the weekly food and restaurant columnist for the Westender newspaper, a contributor to Vancouver and Western Living magazines, and a proud board member of the Chef’s Table Society of BC. He lives and works by the beach in Vancouver.
Sunday, 6:46am (local)
Photos from the Black Box…en route to waking up and the airport now…
Saturday, 10:35pm (local)
The winner was Hayato Okamitsu of Calgary’s “Catch”. Frank Pabst of Vancouver’s Blue Water Cafe won the silver, and Deff Haupt of Montreal’s Renoir landed the bronze. We’re all off to a pub in town, and I mean at least a hundred of us, to drink plenty and make the merriest. It’s been a good weekend. Photos and video to follow. Home in the morning. Thanks for reading.
Saturday, 4:04pm (local)
I’ve just awoken from a wee and desperately needed nap. Headed downstairs now for a pre-seriousness beer with some friends and then the beginning of the end regrettably begins to end. The next time I check in you’ll know who the new Canadian Culinary Champion is…
Saturday, 1:58pm (local)
That was incredibly intense! I thought coming in that the Black Box would be exhausting and stressful, but in actual fact it was brutally insane and exceptionally cruel! Indeed, I took no pleasure at all in unveiling for each chef the following:
1. Fresh rainbow trout.
2. Pork loin (with a little cap fat).
3. Local carrots.
4. Local oats.
5. Saskatoon berry syrup.
6. Local gouda (thanks for the reminder, Sid!)
The gasps from the crowd were audible and sincere. These Black Box reveals were staged at 15 minute intervals, and each chef went straight at it in front of the crowds. Needless to say, there were lots of oat encrusted trout fillets and pork sliced and sauced with berry-infused reductions (one chef did a oat schnitzel, which was very cool). I’m going to take a break for a few hours before the final competition starts at 6pm. Stay tuned. I’ll announce the winning chef via Twitter as soon as the numbers have been crunched and James Chatto tells the many hundreds packing the hall.
Arg. Yawn. Stretch. Coffee. And so it begins. In a little over an hour from now I will make my way down to the kitchens where the chefs will be told of the randomly determined order in which they will compete. We will steer them to a private room where they will hand over their cells phones and Blackberries during which time the media and assorted guests will be told of the six Black Box ingredients. At 9:30am, the first chef will open their Box, and will then have just 10 minutes to come up with two dishes that incorporate all of the Black Box ingredients in one or other (or both) plates. Once the 10 minutes are up, they will tell me what they’re going to cook, and then they’re off to the races. No sweat. They each have just 50 minutes to plate 9 servings of each dish. I will call out a five minute warning, a one minute warning, and then from five seconds down in a remarkably dramatic fashion (naturally). If a chef goes “over time”, he will be docked 1 point for every 30 seconds. These things tend to be remarkably close, especially with so many competitors vying, so going “over time” can be lethal to one’s chances. Oh boy, what fun.
Friday, 11:57pm (local)
The mystery wine-pairing competition is now behind us. It was a stellar night. The wine turned out to be a 2005 Inniskillin Malbec, a bold one that led many chefs to think it was a Syrah or a Cabernet. Lots of pork and lamb accordingly, though one chef did plate some snapper dusted with cinnamon for his match (and it worked remarkably well). Vancouver chef Frank Pabst of the Blue Water Cafe did braised elk cabbage rolls with celeriac and apple puree, black rice, and a reduction of the wine and the braising liquids. Like I said, strong stuff all round. Very impressive. Once the event folded I headed to one of the bars in the hotel to tell and listen to the rudest, most vile jokes imaginable, and now I’m back in my room, wondering where this little belly came from. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day. The Black Box starts in 9 hours, which means I need to be up in 7. I think I’ve been tasked with the big ingredient “reveal”.
Friday, 4:17pm (local)
Going to inspect the kitchens now to make sure everyone is playing by the rules…
Friday, 4:03pm (local)
In case you missed it, this is the home video I made of my experience at last year’s Canadian Culinary Championships. I apologise for the quality. My camera back then was made of balsa wood and bubble gum, and I was training to be a professional hyperbolist…
Friday, 2:40pm (local)
It’s probably a good time to lay out exactly what it is that’s going on here. The Canadian Culinary Championships are made up of three competitions. Tonight we have the mystery wine-pairing competition. Tomorrow at 9am we have the Black Box competition, wherein each chef is presented with five mystery ingredients with which they must plate for over a hundred people. I will be refereeing this one, and won’t be spending too much time with the judges. Then, at 6pm, we have the Grande Finale, which will see each chef doing as they wish, going all out, full stop. Each event is scored equally, so the chef with the top marks at the end becomes the Canadian Culinary Champion (sort of big deal). To see the list of competing chefs, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the live blog.
Friday, 12:04pm (local)
The judges meet for lunch. Quite the view from our table. That’s John Gilchrist from the Calgary Herald and the CBC, James Chatto of Toronto Life, and Sid Cross from Western Living up top and the whole crew down below.
Friday, 10:33am (local)
A massive breakfast is followed by computer angst. Photos aren’t uploading to Scout through the hotel’s firewall or something. Using Flickr and iPhone instead.
Friday, 8:19am (local)
Stunning morning. Well rested. Suspect bed is made of marshmallow and opium.
Thursday, 10:21pm (local)
So bagged. I just wrapped an interview with the documentary crew, and I wasn’t at all at my best (that’s my stand-in in the photo above). The final question – “Are you nervous about making a mistake as a judge and a referee?” – was answered thusly: “No. I’m happy in the knowledge that all of the chefs except Frank Pabst live hundreds of kilometers from me, and I’m pretty sure I could take Frank.” Off to bed I go…
Thursday, 9:15pm (local)
The mystery wine for the wine-pairing competition tomorrow night was just distributed to the chefs. They each received a single, beautiful wooden box with their name engraved in silver on top. The label-less bottle lay within. It’s a red. The more eager among them opened these straight away for a whiff and a sample. I had a swish…everyone thinks it’s a Cab Franc from BC. We’ll find out tomorrow…
Thursday, 8:21pm (local)
The chefs have arrived in the presidential suite with the documentary crew plus the bigwigs from title sponsors Epcor and General Electric. We’re getting into the wine…
Thursday, 6:45pm (local)
We’re in the presidential suite (amazing), hammering out all the final details and rules before the competitions begin. I have a dual role this year. I will be judging and acting as the referee. My job is to ensure that all the chefs don’t bend the rules by trick or accident, so I will be spending a lot of time in the kitchens during tomorrow’s first competition, the most dreaded and difficult of them all, the Black Box.
Thursday, 5:52pm (local)
Fellow judge and Calgarian John Gilchrist just took us on a cool nickel tour of the hotel. This place is huge, with so many restaurants and dining rooms. One can get lost in here very easily. Judges meeting soon.
Thursday, 3:37pm (local)
Arrival at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Lots of media out front and flag waving chefs there to welcome us. Very cool. Check it:
Thursday, 2:04am (local)
Riding to Banff with all the judges and chefs plus the Lively Media camera crew on a pimped out bus. In the photo that’s Andre and Melissa from Bearfoot Bistro and James Chatto from Toronto Life.
Thursday, 11:20am (local)
Touch down in Calgary. Fellow judge Sid Cross a few rows back. BC competitor, chef Frank Pabst of the Blue Water Cafe, a few rows ahead.
Ah, I knew I was forgetting something! I don’t need a coat in Banff during February do I?
On my way to the airport and absolutely positive that I am forgetting something that is vital, like a charger or a USB cord. I’ll post a full run down on how the weekend will go when I arrive at the hotel…
I have to get up in six hours for the flight to Banff so this will have to wait until tomorrow. What? I know. Totally anti-climatic. I was just setting this post up now so I can spend a few extra minutes waking up in the shower at 5:00am and pulling deep on my coffee. There are three competitions over the next three days and lots of sideshow amusements to relate, so bookmark this particular page and check back often. I’ll be plugging away where and when I can via iPhone and laptop, and if you’re not yet following this site on twitter, we’re @scoutmagazine.
PS. I am not playing Donkey Kong on my blackberry in that photo at the very very top…
I’m off to Banff to judge the Canadian Culinary Championships with colleagues Sid Cross, James Chatto, and other food and wine penning friends and neighbours from around the country. The competing chefs, each chosen through trial at battle royales held in their native regions (called the Gold Medal Plates), are as follows:
Edmonton – Chef David Cruz, Sage Restaurant
Calgary – Hayato Okamitsu, Catch Restaurant
Toronto – Chef Patrick Lin, Senses Restaurant
Montreal – Deff Haupt, Le Renoir
Ottawa – Chef Charles Part, Les Fougères
Vancouver – Chef Frank Pabst, Blue Water Café.
The video below is from the Vancouver competition, and it’s worth a watch, if only in the enjoyment of seeing Frank Pabst get positively goosy at winning.