Kelowna’s Mark Filatow put in a good effort, but in the end, two Ontario chefs stole the top podium spots at the Gold Medal Plates Canadian Culinary Championships last weekend.
The new champion, chef Marc St. Jacques from Auberge du Pommier in Toronto won with Terrine of Fois Gras: A dish of White Soy Gele, Black Sesame Financier and roasted lemon curd, paired with Peller Estates Ice Cuvee.
“I am shocked…this win is totally unexpected. There were some amazing chefs competing against me this weekend,” St. Jacques said shortly after winning.
Chef Jamie Stunt from Oz Kafe in Ottawa took silver and Regina’s Hotel Saskatchewan Radisson Plaza chef Milton Rebello claimed bronze.
Saturday evening’s grand finale allowed the chefs to create whatever meal they wanted, paired with a Canadian wine or beverage of their choice.
The final contest brought out 600 food and wine enthusiasts as Alan Doyle from Great Big Sea and Barney Bentall entertained the crowd.
The two-day Canadian Culinary Championships started Friday evening with a mystery wine pairing at the Hotel Eldorado. Chefs were given a bottle of wine the evening before, and had $500 to shop for ingredients to pair with it and provide a small sample for each of the 350 guests in attendance.
Chef Eden Hrabec of Crazyweed Kitchen in Canmore, AB won the people’s choice award in that competition.
The next morning, the black box challenge took place at Okanagan College. All nine competing chefs had one hour to examine ingredients, decide on two separate dishes to make, then cook for 12 judges.
Caviar, lamb shoulders and neck, red fife wheat, laminate kale, anjou pears and Carmellis goat cheese were the secret, mandatory ingredients chefs had to work with.
Chef Darren Craddock of Saskatoon’s Riverside Country Club was the first in the kitchen for that event.
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 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 events sold out over the weekend, Leckie said the championships have 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 was tighter this year…the pack this year represented a number of young guns and mavericks.
“They’re all very creative; the judges loved the quality that came out.”
The CEO and co-founder of Gold Medal Plates added winning the competition can be a “career changer” for any Canadian chef.
Chefs in this year’s championships included: 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).
Net proceeds from Gold Medal Plates are given to the Canadian Olympic Foundation to support athletes through high performance programs such as Own the Podium. To date, a net total of $7.2 million has been raised for Olympic athletes.