Greetings from Kelowna, British Columbia, home of the 2012 Canadian Culinary Championships. I’m the luckiest girl, truly I am – here to help judge the three devilish tasks each chef must endure in his (they are all fellas this year) quest for the top prize.
It’s been foggy here. Flights have been delayed, some cancelled. But the fog lifted long enough to allow all nine competing chefs and their teams from St John’s to Vancouver to land safe and sound, and now that they’ve met each other, shared some wine and food at a chefs’ dinner party hosted by Tantalus Vineyards, and been introduced to their kitchen facilities at the Okanagan College, the fun is afoot.
Last night, each chef was handed a mystery bottle of wine. He knows it’s a white. But other than that – no label, no cork. His job: sniff it, swirl it, drink it, mine its soul – and then concoct a dish that will make it really tick. The catch? Make a lot of them (350 small plates for guests and 11 more for judges) with a puny little budget.
With $500 in a pocket, plus some petty cash for cabs, each chef shopped up a storm, and have now returned to the College kitchens. Together with their sous chefs and a couple of culinary students as helpers, and with constant slugs of the elusive wine to keep on track, the teams are now creating a masterful little plate – 350 of them – ever mindful of the scheme that awards thirty percent for this competition, to the wine match.