“At my first competition, a Skills Canada event, I got slaughtered. I came in dead last… ”
It clearly didn’t turn him off. Trevor Ritchie credits teacher-mentors (chef Tyrone Miller chief among them) for seeing in him a fierce and focused determination. They took him on. And gradually, he started bringing home hardware.
Fifteen years after that first disastrous competition, Ritchie, Chef Technologist at George Brown College is the 2015 Winner of the CCFCC National Chefs Challenge, Winner of the 2016 Bocuse d’Or Canada, and candidate for the January 2019 Grande Finale, the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, France in 2019.
Last night, Ritchie joined Marc Lepine and four Ottawa chefs, Gold Medal Plates winners all, at a sold-out dinner in his honour.
It was a collaboration that had six delicious results, each chef offering such elegant expressions of her/his cuisine. Atelier star sommelier and general manager, Steve Robinson paired each course with wines, cider and a Casselman-made-for-Atelier beer, dispensed at our table with style and grace by assistant somm, Bernard Lemoyne.
Ritchie started us off with a refined dish starring New Brunswick Acadian Sturgeon, smoked and made into a rich rillette, crowned with some pickled mustard seed and a sea asparagus for colour and salty tang. This was set beside an inky-black dollop of the fish’s luscious caviar, and another, whiter one, of pomme purée – the hero of the mashed potato world. The dish was moistened with a silky sauce as pale as the fish, fashioned with sturgeon bones.
From Absinthe chef Patrick Garland (“So, I drew the foie card…” he said, as he introduced his dish), and Café My House chef Briana Kim (our city’s Canadian Culinary Championship candidate for 2018), came the pleasure of sin before the virtue of vegan.
Garland gave us a technically flawless plate that starred foie gras, unabashedly presented three ways in all its unctuous glory, while Kim followed up with a dazzling lemongrass broth that lapped the edges of wheatberry meatballs spiked with sage and the sunny citrus zing of dehydrated orange.
From chef Joe Thottungal of Coconut Lagoon came a deeply aromatic pepper beef, in a Tellicherry peppercorn sauce brightened with dobs of his splendid tomato chutney. With the meat came a split yellow pea thoran (a Keralite dish cooked with curry leaves, black mustard and cumin seeds) a Kerala vegetable curry (an aviyal, a traditional side dish) and puffed sundried sago (a starch cousin of tapioca), crisp and airy. A peppery mustard sauce danced circles around the plate.
From chef Jamie Stunt, came quite a different mustard sauce, one we lapped up with enormous pleasure, spiked with the funk of black garlic. It surrounded milky-pink slices of Fermes Gaspor porcelet, with a lovely bit of clinging fat, balanced with sweet, tart apples and the bitter notes from turnips.
The sweet ending came from our host chef, Marc Lepine, and drew the gasps his plates are wont to do. A life-ring of dehydrated chocolate was the focus, wafer thin, but supporting the weight of a number of delicious passengers: a passion fruit orb, wobbly timbales of raspberry curd, piped dots of tonka bean meringue, melt-in-the-mouth tears of matcha cake, hyssop leaves and a raspberry or two. You could treat the construct like a game of Jenga, carefully plucking off the bits on top and trying to maintain some balance, or you could do as my husband did: crack it with the back of a spoon into chewy chocolate shards, and muddle it all up in the bottom of the bowl. Either way, you win.