Gold Medal Plates, Ottawa-Gatineau

IN the grand hall of the Hilton Lac Leamy, ten chefs rallied together to feed the five hundred guests of the Gold Medal Plates, a fundraising gala in support of Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes held in six cities across the country. Ottawa kicked off the campaign.

The chefs rallied together but they also squared off. This was a culinary competition, and while they fed the delighted crowd, they also fed a panel of five judges, led by James Chatto. Competing were Yannick Anton (Signatures) Ben Baird (Urban Pear) Derek Benitz (Benitz Bistro) Michael Blackie (Perspectives) Matthew Carmichael (Restaurant Eighteen) Patrick Garland (Absinthe) Stev George (Olivea in Kingston) Arup Jana (Allium) Charles Part (Les Fougeres) and Steve Wall (Whalesbone Oyster House).

At the close of the evening, newcomer to GMP Stev George of Olivea took the Bronze with a simple, earthy dish of locally raised pork – all the bits…. the juicy loin, a kale-wrapped shoulder, a nugget of soft fatty belly and a square of crackling, served with braised carrots and shallots, and with a sauce of Niagara peaches, sweet but not overly so, boosted with the Prince Edward County wine he chose to match his dish (Sandbanks Estate 2007 Riesling.) A fabulous fall plate.

The silver medal went to Matthew Carmichael of Restaurant Eighteen (and now also of Social) for his pretty plate of roast ostrich and poached lobster, both impeccable, and with a with a rich puree of Jerusalem artichoke. Colour came with cherries pickled ume plum style, and in the sprinkling of tiny white enoki mushrooms.  Carmichael paired this wine with a Closson Chase 2007 Pinot Noir.

The chef who will go on to represent Ottawa-Gatineau in the Canadian Culinary Championships (Banff Springs Hotel, February 19-21, 2009) is Charles Part of Restaurant Les Fougeres in Chelsea. His gold medal dish was called “The Mouth of the St. Lawrence” and on the plate, a delicate raviolo filled with a fantastically tasty  brandade of salt cod that made a pillow for a single Grand Banks scallop, seared, anointed ever so somewhat with white truffle oil, and served with Lennox Island mussels and British-style potted Matane shrimp, the whole moistened with a gentle, but full flavoured mussel fumet.   This he paired with a Huff Estate 2007 Off-Dry Riesling which reached the sweet notes of this dish and cut the rich ones.

There were other distinguished plates of which I’ll just mention two. Yannick Anton’s slow roasted beef short rib “mijote” – the luxurious meat is then “pressed” overnight – was a wondrously rich cube of tender meat, and I loved the piquant emulsion of horseradish that clung to the side and tumbled over the plate.  And Steve Wall’s dish of East Coast bay scallops and West Coast fried oysters was a simple delight, a lovely play of textures and so very fresh tasting, the flavour marred ever so slightly by an excess of surface salt.






2 responses to “Gold Medal Plates, Ottawa-Gatineau”

  1. Maria M Avatar
    Maria M

    It is unfortunate that a competition that features so many talented chefs cannot even be judged in a professional and organized manner. I find it quite backwards and bias-proned that the judges knew who’s dishes they were tasting among other things. How is the public supposed to take this competition seriously?

  2. Anne Avatar


    Thank you for your comment.

    First, let me assure you that the results of this year’s Gold Medal Plates competition in Ottawa-Gatineau were determined with absolute fairness and objectivity.

    With regard to your concern about judges knowing whose food they were tasting, I can say unequivocally that your concerns are unwarranted. I have been a restaurant critic for twenty years, fifteen of those with the Ottawa Citizen. I have reviewed hundreds of restaurants, none of which I judged blindfolded. I am well aware, when I walk into a restaurant, whose food I am about to evaluate.

    My job at the Gold Medal Plates was to judge the plate in front of me. I awarded marks for the quality of the food, the structure of the dish, the look, the flavour, the pleasure it gave me.

    It’s what I do every day. It’s what senior judge James Chatto does as restaurant critic for Toronto Life, senior writer for Food and Drink, and as the national culinary advisor for Gold Medal Plates. It’s what Pierre Jury does as restaurant critic for Le Droit, and Cindy Deachman does as a food writer for Ottawa Magazine. Indeed, none of the judges would be able to do what they do for a living if they were susceptible to bias.

    Rounding off our judging panel were two experienced chefs – Michael Moffatt (of Beckta Dining and Wine, and last year’s Ottawa GMP gold medallist) and Melissa Craig (Whistler BC chef and past-winner of the Canadian Culinary Championships.)

    I assure you, the judging panel is a highly capable team of professional eaters, which regarded its job at this great event both a privilege and a responsibility.

    Kind regards,


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