Chefs get creative at Canadian Culinary Championships black box challenge
Caviar, lamb shoulders and neck, Red Fife wheat, Lacinato kale, Anjou pears and Carmelis goat cheese were the secret ingredients given to 10 Canadian chefs in the second round of the Canadian Culinary Championships Saturday at Okanagan College.
The black box challenge allowed chefs one hour to examine the ingredients, decide on two separate dishes to make, then cook enough food for 12 judges.
A crowd of about 30 people gathered around the Okanagan College cooking area to observe how the chefs dealt with the pressure Saturday morning.
Chef Darren Craddock of Saskatoon's Riverside Country Club was the first in the kitchen.
With unknown ingredients, a ticking clock and a crowd just inches away from his cooking space, he said the experience was a bit nerve-racking.
"You sort of zone out and buckle down. You know the crowd is there, but you don't really look up," said Craddock.
Other chefs in Saskatoon helped Craddock practice for the Canadian Culinary Championships by giving him mystery ingredients to cook with and allowing him to practice in their restaurants, to get used to cooking in a foreign environment.
"We felt we were as prepared as we could be to come into here."
Shortly after delivering his dishes to the judges, he said he was satisfied with his performance.
"I was happy we got everything on the plate and we were under time."
Craddock was also at the Canadian Culinary Championships last year as a sous chef for Anthony McCarthy. He said he likes coming to Kelowna to compete.
"It's very relaxing to look out on the lake in the morning and sort of gather your thoughts and try to focus."
That's one of many reasons organizers decided the Canadian Culinary Championships would be held in Kelowna for five consecutive years, said Stephen Leckie, CEO and co-founder of Gold Medal Plates.
"You've got a passionate population here for food and wine, which is very big to us," said Leckie.
He added cooperation from the local committee and Okanagan College has also helped the event run smoothly each year.
This is the third straight year the championships are being held in Kelowna. With all three championship events sold out this weekend, Leckie said the event has built a solid reputation.
"The first year you got people who were excited and stepped in, but you had other people who waited. The second year you started to get a level of word of mouth. This year it's obvious: Everybody knows what's going on."
He added over 200 people flew in from out of town to watch the young talent competing in this year's final events.
"The competition is tighter this year…the pack this year represents a number of young guns and mavericks.
"They're all very creative; the judges love the quality that's coming out."
Chefs in this year's championships include Milton Rebello (Regina), Jamie Stunt (Ottawa), Nathin Bye (Edmonton), Darren Craddock (Saskatoon), Mark Filatow (Kelowna), Daren Bergeron (Montreal), Eden Hrabec (Canmore), Shaun Hussey (St. John's), Marc St. Jacques (Toronto) and Osten Rice (Winnipeg).
Filatow of Waterfront Restaurant and Wine Bar in Kelowna was set to compete in the black box challenge just after 12 p.m.
Eden Hrabec won the people's choice competition in the first round of the Canadian Culinary Championships Friday evening.
The final competition takes place at the Delta Grand Hotel this evening.
Leckie said winning the Canadian Culinary Championship would mean a lot to any competitor.
"This is the crown—for a chef to walk away from this and win is a career changer."