The ballroom of the Hilton Lac Leamy smelled fantastic. The chefs’ stations – some soaring, some simple – ringed the room. Tucked in one corner, a comfort cassoulet; in another, a dome of gellied lobster bisque set on a carpaccio of rabbit. There were plates of wild boar and venison and octopus, and many wonderful treatments of parsnip. All ten competing chefs rose to the glittering occasion, and the sold out crowd ate and drank remarkably well.
Chef Charles Part of Les Fougeres in Chelsea, Quebec, winner of the Ottawa-Gatineau Gold Medal Plates competition of 2008, seared a luscious hunk of Baffin Island Arctic Char for the guests at the VIP reception, glazing the fish with maple, and setting it, bronzed and mi-cuit on a parsnip puree laced with sherry.
Awarded the bronze medal this year was Chef Ben Baird of The Urban Pear. His dish was composed of two meaty parts – a clean and refreshing beef tartare, and a gorgeous bone marrow creme brulee, the custard beautifully executed. The two elements were united with a bridge of beef jerky, and beneath, by a rich, gentle-giant of a sauce, brightened with dribs and drabs of carrot jus. To match the dish, the Triomphe Cabernet Merlot, 2005, from Southbrook Winery.
The silver medal was awarded to Chef Michael Blackie of Le Cafe at the National Arts Centre. A dish of many pretty elements, none finer than the ‘hemisphere of lobster bisque’, the corral dome quivering and splendid, a luscious nugget of lobster meat punched into its core, set on thin leaves of cured rabbit, and draped with a polonaise ‘flick’ of hard cooked egg, parsley, and citrus zest. His wine match, a Chardonnay-Seyval from Vignoble Les Pervenches, was the lone Quebec wine in the competition.
Our gold medal winner, by a clear margin, was Chef Matthew Carmichael of Restaurant E18hteen. He gave us a pretty line of sea treats set on a smear of curry sauce, bookmarked with little roasted radishes (one stained with turmeric, the other left rosy pink.) In the lineup, a square of loup de mer, crisp skinned and wet fleshed, a nubbly dumpling of rock shrimp crowned with pearls of caviar, and in centre of the plate, a remarkably tender cut of octopus, set on a gentle round of sausage. Threaded through the various elements was the sparkle of kaffir lime leaves. Closson Chase’s Chardonnay (2007 South Clos Vineyard, 100% Prince Edward County) seemed a seamless match.
Chef Carmichael now carries on to compete in the Canadian Culinary Championships in Vancouver in late November. Congratulations to him, and to all the competing chefs.
Matthew Carmichael’s gold medal plate