Photo: Al Waters. In photo L-R: Hill, LaSalle, Bohati

Canadian Culinary Championships go out with bang

The Canadian Culinary Champion is chef Yannick LaSalle of restaurant Les Fougères, Que.

Eleven of Canada’s top chefs competed in three gruelling competitions on Feb. 1 and 2, with one goal, to win gold and stand on the podium as the Canadian Culinary Champion for 2019.

The 13th annual Canadian Culinary Championships took place in Kelowna and the competitions were exciting for competitors, judges and guests.

The Canadian Culinary Champion for 2019 is chef Yannick LaSalle of Restaurant Les Fougères in Chelsea, Que. His final dish was Fennel with sea buckthorn, Eastern township duck magret, Le Rougié with Quebec saffron, paired with 2016 Barrel Select VQA Chardonnay from Meldville Wines.

“I am so happy I just can’t stop smiling, my team did a great job and I’m so honoured to be here,” said LaSalle.

There is definite bragging rights being named the best chef in Canada, and in addition, a great prize, a trip to West Africa or South America to visit a chocolate plantation.

Charles Part, Yannick’s mentor and owner of Les Fougères competed in the Canadian Culinary Championships in Banff, Alta. A great story to show how a mentor sees his mentee compete in the same competition and 10 years later takes home the gold.

RELATED: ‘I’m speechless.’ West Kelowna student takes in Canadian Culinary Championships

The second and third place winners also wowed the judges and guests alike with their creativity. The bronze was awarded to chef Dave Bohati from Murrieta’s in Calgary, Alta. and the silver was awarded to chef Christopher Hill from Taste Restaurant Group, Saskatoon, Sask. The bronze winning dish was Smoked Brant Lake AB Wagyu Beef Cheeks Kabocha squash, Jerusalem artichoke, marrow, Saskatoon Berry paired with Tantalus Vineyards 2016 Pinot Noir and the silver was After The Fire confit duck leg, wild boar sausage, birch aerated foie gras, parsnip, beetroot, morel, cabbage, sour cherry, syrup salsify bark, juniper jus, new growth flowers, Reindeer moss and smoke paired with Meyer Family Vineyards 2017 Pinot Noir.

RELATED: Canadian Culinary Championships afford local talent big opportunities in Kelowna

The two-day competition started with the Mystery Wine Competition on Friday where chefs were tasked with creating a dish that they felt perfectly paired with the unlabelled wine they received less than 24 hours before. Chefs were given $500 to shop for ingredients to provide a small plate for the 400 guests in attendance. Attendees were able to taste the chefs’ creations and cast their own ballot. 2016 Vista’s Edge Cabernet Franc from Mission Hill Family Estate in West Kelowna was unveiled as the mystery wine late Friday and the People’s Choice for Competition I was chef Takashi Ito, from AURA Waterfront Restaurant + Patio in Victoria, B.C.

The second competition was The Black Box Competition II held at Okanagan College Saturday morning. This competition is the most intensive and the most exciting to watch, because the chefs had just one hour to prepare a dish using the following seven mystery ingredients:

  • Chestnuts – Sylvia Koal, Koal Orchards.
  • Quince – Mikuni wild harvest of Vancouver
  • Saffron – True Saffron Producers Inc. from Northumberland County in Ont.
  • Sweet Potatoes – Assiniboine Community College
  • Lion’s Mane Mushrooms – Gruger Family Fungi in Nisku, Alta.
  • Buckwheat Groats – Tony Marshall of Highwood Crossing in High River, Alta.
  • Yoghurt – Produced by Shepherd Gourmet Dairy, St. Mary’s Ont., supplied by Natures Fare West Kelowna

This was the first time that the black box had only vegetarian ingredients.

The final event at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort was the hottest ticket in town. The chefs culinary expertise was on full display, and as per the guidelines, each chef paired their dish with a Canadian beverage. Guests were amazed to see that one chef paired his dish with a craft beer, two chefs paired with their dish with sake and the rest of the chefs paired with wines representing N.S., Ont. and B.C. The evening was hosted by Dominick Gauthier, COO of B2ten and coach to gold medalists in freestyle skiing Jennifer Heil and Alexandre Bilodeau and there was some great music and dancing when Bill Henderson and Chilliwack rocked it out for the guests.

“This year marks were closer than ever, after competition I it was very close between gold and silver, this year the pack was really tight; we saw chefs who stumbled in the black box soar tonight in competition III and in the end the marks were very close, well done to all of our competitors,” James Chatto, Canadian Culinary Championships national culinary advisor and head judge.

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