Paul Cecconi of Summerland's Local Lounge and Grille served up soup to Supt. Bill McKinnon and six other judges who gathered at the Gospel Mission Monday morning. Cecconi will face off against Sparkling Hills resort's Ross Derrick for Saturday's Stone Soup Challenge gala event.

Two Okanagan chefs named Stone Soup Challenge finalists

In a battle that's tested some of the Valley's best chefs' ability to pair good taste with thriftiness, two have proven to be at the top of their game.

In a battle that’s tested some of the Valley’s best chefs’ ability to pair good taste with thriftiness, two have proven to be at the top of their game.

Local Lounge and Grille’s Paul Cecconi and Ross Derrick of Sparkling Hills Resort were named the finalists of the Stone Soup Challenge Monday morning, after beating out six other Valley chefs. That means this Saturday, their vats of soup will be tested at a cook-off gala event that raises funds for the Gospel Mission.

“It’s really a great event,” said Cecconi, returning champ. “The cause is great, but also, for us, being from a new restaurant, we got so much positive feedback.”

For Derrick, the event will be a homecoming of sorts. Even through he’s also a chef at one of the most posh resorts in the Okanagan, he’s no stranger to soup kitchen stylings.

“My first job was cooking at the Agape Soup Kitchen in Winnipeg,” he said, noting he was in Grade 8, when he was there. “It’s nice to do this work again — I’ve been away from it for awhile.”

Asked whether he takes a different tack with the Stone Soup event, than he does at the resort, Derrick said “no.”

“Food is food, and people are people,” he said. “There’s no difference. Everyone needs the same thing to be healthy.”

The Stone Soup Challenge is basically a black box competition, which means the chefs have to whip up something tasty out of ingredients they’ve never seen before.

The twist, however, is that they’re reliant on the limited supplies in the kitchen of the Kelowna Gospel Mission—thus the Stone Soup Challenge moniker, which is a nod to the fable of the same name and similar theme.

“It can be a challenge,” said Edan Fay, executive chef of Lake Okanagan Resort, and Cecconi’s Monday morning competitor.

“For the first round we went to the cooler and there was nothing there, so we had to rely on what was in the dry cupboards.”

Even though there are challenges, and Fay was edged out of the final, he said that he’d come back for as long as the mission continues on with the event.

“I like to help out however I can,” he said.

As for the mission’s take on the event, representative Ami Catriona said it’s been a huge success to date.

“Everyone’s been so generous with their time, skills and with volunteers and staff,” she said.

To learn more about the event, or get tickets to the gala, go to stonesoupchef.com