Hayato Okamitsu crowned Canadian Culinary Champion!
I’ve been eating and drinking in the Rockies – very much and very well – as the Ottawa member of an 8-strong panel of judges plucked from across the country, and led by Gold Medal Plates culinary advisor James Chatto, and I want to give you the results and a bit of the flavour.
The Gold Medal Plates Canadian Culinary Championship just wrapped up at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel this past weekend, and the winner was Hayato Okamitsu, of Catch Restaurant and Oyster Bar in Calgary. He had turned heads (and won gold) at Calgary’s Gold Medal Pates Competition with a dish that was ambitious and complex, to be sure, but also vegetarian (imagine!) So you can add bold and brave to that honour.
Our own Charles Part, from Les Fougeres in Chelsea competed masterfully but ended up just shy of the podium in fourth place.
The three day gruelling event began with the Wine Pairing Challenge. Each of the six chefs (Montreal’s Deff Haupt, Ottawa-Gatineau’s Charles Part, Toronto’s Patrick Lin, Calgary’s Hayato Okamitsu, Edmonton’s David Cruz, and Vancouver’s Frank Pabst) was given a mystery wine (later revealed as Inniskillin Okanagan Malbec 2005) and the paltry sum of $350 with which to created 250 small plates (for the assembled fans) of a dish that would marry beautifully with the wine. Charles Part sourced some lamb shoulder from a farm outside Calgary, cooking it sous vide with black currants and roasted garlic, pairing it with a minted pea risotto, and an even darker green salsa verde, and his dish won the “People’s Choice” award by a landslide.
Saturday morning was the Black Box competition, where each chef, in turn, was given the same six ingredients with which to create two dishes, plating each dish for each judge, in precisely 60 minutes. Madness and mayhem. Again, borrowing from a stocked pantry, Part did well with what he was given – a loin of pork, tank raised rainbow trout, 2 lbs of Sylvian Lake Gouda cheese, some rolled oats, a bottle of Saskatoon berry syrup and a bag of organic carrots – Alberta products all (yes, even the Gouda!) His treatment of the pork was wonderful – he sandwiched gouda between escalopes of panko-crusted pork, crowned it with a softly poached egg, and made a wonderful Branston-style pickle heady with basil and rosemary to serve with it.
For Part’s final dish, at the final event on the Saturday night, he chose to go with a firing squad at dawn sort of last supper dish. It was a delicious bistro-style plate of Quebec Moulard Duck confit, which he balanced on a disc of roasted pear layered with goat cheese from Floralpe Farms anchored on a crunchy bed of rosti potato. He finished the dish with a pile of wilted spinach and a zippy sauce of ground Tellicherry peppercorns, thyme and Niagara wood aged vinegar. The judges were unanimous that, in terms of taste, texture, and wine match, it was brilliant. Where he lost marks (and others gained) was in the categories of “originality” and that slippery “Wow! factor”
The silver medal went to Frank Pabst, of Blue Water Cafe in Vancouver. Bronze was taken by Chef Deff Haupt of Le Renoir in Montreal.