Chef Mike Robins (right), representing Winnipeg, digs into his black mystery box during the Canadian Culinary Championships, Saturday, at Okanagan College. Robins won the People’s Choice award Friday. - Credit: Carli Berry/Capital News

Students excited to be part of Culinary Championships in Kelowna

Siobhan Detkavich and Ashlie Lennox will be helping competing chefs tonight during Gold Medal Plates

Two Okanagan College students are excited to work alongside their idols tonight for the Gold Medal Plates finale.

The students were eager to learn all they can and watched the Black Box event, which tests the chef’s creativity by presenting them with a black mystery box of foods they must prepare within a certain time limit, this morning on the college campus.

Watch: Live stream of Black Box competition

Siobhan Detkavich and Ashlie Lennox have helped chefs prepare their final meals in previous years as part of the Canadian Culinary Championships.

“I just love the energy around it, this crazy energy and working with some skilled chefs around the world, it’s a crazy learning experience,” said Lennox. “I just like to see what the chefs are able to come up on the spot. They think way outside of the box.”

Detkavich will be working with Alex Chen, who is representing B.C. She said she is excited to see what he will bring to the Black Box event.

“I’ve had a lot of chefs push and say ‘hey, learn as much as you can’ so for me… you get to see the different styles they cook things in, you get to see the different plating techniques,” she said.

“When you work in a kitchen you learn to dance with each other.”

Lennox likes to see what the chefs come up with under pressure.

Although the championships are not a mandatory part of the culinary program at the college, students learn invaluable lessons by participating in the finale.

The chefs direct the students to do the “grunt” work, Detkavich said. This could mean peeling potatoes, running errands and doing other small items to help the chefs prepare their final meals.

“It’s a great experience for those who are new to cooking and to make connections across Canada,” said Detkavich.

Last year Lennox peeled shrimp for eight hours. But she didn’t mind.

Chef Nick Jewczyk, representing St. Johns was the first person to take the lid off black box this morning.

“We were excited, there’s definitely an element of intimidation because you don’t know what you’re going to get and we build our whole careers around planning and being structured in everything, and to know that the stakes are so high at an event you can’t control, there’s definitely an anxiety to it,” he said.

“On the other foot, it is what it is. You plan out as much as you can and it’s basically left to the pots and pans and what is made available to you that day. You do your best and trust your instincts.”

The St. Johns team accidentally used two rabbit proteins, preparing both a rabbit liver and a whole rabbit with oysters.

“When we go to design our plates we wouldn’t usually design it with rabbit and oysters, so trying to make the best of those ingredients… without having the time to think about it was just a peddle to the metal,” said Jewczyk.

The grand finale takes place tonight at the Delta Hotels Grand Okanagan Resort in downtown Kelowna, at 6:30 p.m. Winners will also be announced this evening.

For more information about the Canadian Culinary Competition visit the Gold Medal Plates website.

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