Canadian Culinary Championships: Full recap

Two day event in Kelowna another huge success with great food and wine and top chefs

  • Feb. 5, 2017 11:00 a.m.

Winner Jinhee Lee with second place Joe Thottungal (left) and third place Eric Hanson.

Eleven of Canada’s top chefs competed in three events Friday and Saturday, with one goal, to be crowned the Canadian Culinary Champion.

And the 11th annual Canadian Culinary Championship crowned its winner Saturday night, with  the new Champion Chef Jinhee Lee of Foreign Concept in Calgary, winning with her finale dish being “Cha Ca La Vong” featuring turmeric fish mosaic with dill and was paired with the Bartier Brothers 2014 Gewurztraminer.

Chef Lee’s reaction when she realized she won:

“This is such an honour, I am so shocked and proud, I am so happy to win and thankful for my team.”

And her prize beyond the bragging rights is a two-year lease of a BMW 435i xDrive Gran Coupe, donated by BMW Canada.

Standing ovations from the crowd applauded the winners of the bronze and silver medals as they were announced. Chef Eric Hanson from Prairie Noodle Shop in Edmonton took the bronze, and the silver was awarded to Chef Joe Thottungal from Coconut Lagoon in Ottawa. Pairings were Spot Prawn with Plum paired with the 2015 Culmina Family Estate Winery Unicus, from Oliver, British Columbia for Eric’s bronze dish and the poached halibut infused with Kerala spices, fish curry crumbs, and woodland mushroom aviyal for Joe’s silver and was paired with Huff Estates 2015 Riesling, Prince Edward County, Ontario.

The two-day event started with a Friday evening Mystery Wine Competition where chefs prepared a dish they felt perfectly suited the mystery bottle of wine they had received less than 24 hours before. The wine was unveiled as 2014 Pinot Noir Reserve from Unsworth Vineyards from the Cowichan Valley in British Columbia. Chefs were given $500 to shop for ingredients to provide a small plate nosh for the 400 guests in attendance. Invited guests were able to taste the chefs’ creations and cast their own ballot. Emerging as the People’s Choice for this single event was Chef Jinhee Lee, from Foreign Concept in Calgary.

The Black Box Challenge held at Okanagan College gave all eleven competing chefs one hour to prepare one dish using seven mystery ingredients presented in a black box:

•    Salt Cod

•    A Savoy Cabbage

•    Quail Eggs

•    Okanagan Cherries

•    Raw Bread Dough

•    Cutthroat West Coast Ale

The Grand Finale at the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort and Conference Centre saw the eleven chefs competing in an all-out, slam-down competition. Dishes were partnered with their chosen Canadian wine or beer. The evening was simply delicious, with the very best of Canada’s culinary scene fully evident.

James Chatto, Gold Medal Plates’ National Culinary Advisor and Head Judge, was very impressed with this year’s competitors. At the end of competition I it was still very much anybody’s game, all the chefs performed magnificently; then there was the black box and we started to see the competition change. This years’ winner was strong in all three competitions and impressed the judges with each of her three dishes.”

The Grand Finale event at the Delta Grand Okanagan was the most glamorous ticket in town. Playing to sold out audience of 600 wine and food enthusiasts were the chart-topping, multi-platinum singer-songwriter Johnny Reid and Juno Nominated and CBC’s “Heart of Gold” singer-songwriter Danny Michel. The event was also a fundraiser for Canadian Olympians and there were ten incredible athletes in attendance:

•Allison Beveridge, Olympic Bronze Medalist, Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Track Cycling

•Catharine Pendrel, Three-Time Olympian, Olympic Bronze Medalist, Mountain Biking

•Curtis Myden, Three-Time Olympian, Three Time Olympic Bronze Medalist, Swimming

•Erica Wiebe, Olympic Gold Medallist, Wrestling

•Jasmin Glaesser, Two-Time Olympic Bronze Medalist, Track Cycling

•Kristi Richards, Two Time Olympian, Freestyle Skiing

•Brian Stemmle, Four-Time Olympian, Canadian Ski Hall of Fame Inductee, Downhill and Super-Cross

•Kelsey Serwa, Two-Time Olympian & Olympic Silver Medallist, Freestyle Skiing

•Lucas Makowsky, Two-Time Olympian & Olympic Gold Medallist, Speed Skating

•Shannon Szabados, Two-Time Olympic Gold Medallist, Ice Hockey

The evening’s Emcee, Brian Stemmle, a four time Olympian in alpine skiing had this to say about the event:

“This has been a great weekend, I am proud to see the chefs putting their hearts into their work. You could feel the energy in the room! It has been great to be a part of this.”

As well as indulging in amazing food and wine, Saturday night guests were able to compete for items during the live auction.  Some of the items up for bid were unique travel experiences including; a trip to Douro Valley in Portugal with Geoffrey Kelley, John Mann and Mathew Harder from Canada’s iconic band Spirit of the West including special guests Danny Michel and Rebecca Harder and Olympic Gold Medalist Heather Moyse;  Barcelona and Mallorca Spain with Jim Cuddy, Tom Cochrane, Barney Bentall and Anne Lindsay with multi medalists Marnie McBean and Mark Tewksbury; Iceland with Ed Robertson, Danny Michel, Erica Wiebe and Catriona Le May; and Tuscany featuring Jim Cuddy, Barney Bentall, Anne Lindsay, Devin Cuddy, Curt Harnett, Melissa Tancredi and Ghislaine Landry.

Stephen Leckie Co-Founder of Gold Medal Plates was ecstatic.

“I commend Kelowna and all of the Okanagan for supporting all three of our events.  The contributions of the Okanagan wineries was also incredible.  This event shines the spotlight on Kelowna and we are thrilled to see the Canadian Culinary Championships thrive here.  A huge salute to the many volunteers, committee members and chair Judy Burns for leading such an excellent Championships!”

This memorable two-day event will be held in Kelowna until 2020, with proceeds from Gold Medal Plates and the Canadian Culinary Championships given to the Canadian Olympic Foundation to support high performance athletes.   To date, over $12 million has been raised.

The Canadian Culinary Championships wishes to thank our presenting sponsor Deloitte, national sponsors The Globe and Mail, BMW, Big White Ski Resort, Borgo San Felice, gold sponsor Tourism Kelowna and regional partners Okanagan College, Delta Grand Okanagan Resort, Okanagan Chefs Association and AM1150.

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