Through the sidedoor, beneath the arc and straight on to OZ. Woo hoo what a night!
The podium at Ottawa’s Gold Medal Plates culinary competition was occupied last night with Jonathan Korecki, from Sidedoor Contemporary Kitchen, Jason Duffy from the Arc Lounge.Dining, and Jamie Stunt from OZ Kafé, taking the bronze, silver and gold medals, in that order. These were the newcomers, the babes, none having competed at any Gold Medal Plates competition in the past. So hat’s off to them!
The Ottawa event was the fourth in a series of nine Gold Medal Plates galas and culinary competitions. These are held in cities across the country, from Vancouver to St John’s, and bring together Canadian chefs, wineries and breweries, with some amazing musicians, athletes and auction items, all in support of Canada’s Olympic athletes.
This was Stunt’s winning dish. I didn’t think it the prettiest of the night, but the flavours were intelligent, the cooking precise, the textures coordinated and the booze choice – an ABC beer crafted to match the plate – bang on.
Stunt spiced and seared up a loin of yak. Yes, yak. Those wooly eyed, horned and hairy Tibetan bovine, raised happily and healthfully on Tiraislin Farms in Lanark County. He used the loin, seasoning it with steak spices, and searing it up nice and rare. With the spent grains from the aromatic beer he chose (created by Quinn Hodgins of Ashton Brewing Company, who infused the brew with lemongrass and Kaffir lime,) he crusted a juicy tomatillo. Between the well-seasoned yak and the crunchy fruit was a layer of firm prawns in a rémoulade and surrounding the construct, a pretty pumpkin coloured smoked boar vinaigrette, some sprigs of cilantro and Thai basil, pickled kohlrabi and shallots, and a Beauty Heart radish.
The silver went Jason Duffy, executive chef at Arc Lounge.Dining. It was a beauty, his plate, constructed around a firm and juicy hunk of BC lingcod cooked in browned butter. Duffy had the fish resting on a creamy Le Coprin-sourced mushroom cake perked with a green tomato chutney from his garden. He supported these with two slices of porchetta – cured, smoked, rolled, and roasted for the occasion. Balancing the plate, dobs of an apple and basil jus and a pile of dehydrated pickled cherry ‘dust’ and fennel pollen.
The wine match (which won best in show from the wine judges, led by GMP Wine Advisor David Lawrason) was the Norman Hardie 2010 County Pinot Noir.
Sidedoor chef Jonathan Korecki took the bronze. His dish featured a brined ballotine of Wild turkey breast, the meat pink and moist, the skin crackling. There was a kabocha squash dumpling on the plate, with some of the confit of the dark meat, and a curry he called “YOW” which incorporated Hall Farm apples, pickled spruce tips, maple syrup, and Upper Canada cranberries. This he paired with Kichesippi Natural Blonde Ale.
The competition held other treats. From Chris Deraiche (Wellington Gastropub) with his lovely pork consommé lapping the sides of a delicious crab agnolotti and a hunk of steamed halibut; to John Taylor’s ‘Lobster Brunch,’ with its sous vide poached egg, blood pudding and crisp speck. Triscuits, cashews and hazelnuts were the scrunchings on a plate Taylor told us was a salute to his New Brunswick childhood and in honour of his late mother.
I liked very much NAC chef Michael Blackie’s crispy PEI quahog with a marvellous cannellini bean, ham hock and goat cheese cassoulet. Michael Hay from Back Lane Café’s dish had Lebanese leanings, with its lamb neck falafel, sunchoke hummus, and eggplant caponata; and Juniper chef Norm Aitken gave us a fun ‘Pastrami Chipwich’ together with a seriously good braised short rib.
But the news of the night was Stunt from the quirky little OZ Kafé. His win was utterly unexpected. For me, he was the wild card. But he aced this competition, and he’s off to the Emerald City of Kelowna in February, to compete at the Canadian Culinary Championships.
And hat’s off too, to my fellow judges: James Chatto, Toronto writer, author, and head judge of GMP; House of Commons Executive Chef and international culinary judge Judson Simpson; Canadian cookbook author, columnist and television host Margaret Dickenson; food writer, teacher, stylist and TV personality Pam Collacott; Sheila Whyte, long time owner of Thyme and Again Creative Catering and Take Home Food Shop; and Atelier chef and the current Canadian Culinary Champion, Marc Lepine.