Reprinted with permission from Edmonton’s The Tomato
Chefs gathered from across the country to take part in the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna in early February. Each had taken top spot at their regional Gold Medal Plates (GMP) events.
Chef Nathin Bye of Wildflower Grill was Edmonton’s contender, his second time to the national competition.
“This year we had no runaway winner and no one fell by the wayside,” says James Chatto, GMP national culinary advisor. “Going into the Grand Finale, half a dozen chefs were in contention for the silver and bronze spots. I was happy to see two dark horses reach the podium — Jamie Stunt and Milton Rebello. It underlines the fact that we have a remarkable depth of culinary talent right across the country. That said, we have a very worthy winner in Marc St. Jacques.”
Gold Medal Plates was conceived not just as a chef’s competition, though its role in moving Canadian gastronomy forward is becoming more evident every year. The combination of chefs, star athletes and Canadian musical talent delivers serious dough, with over $6 million raised for the Canadian Olympic Foundation so far.
“I love the way Kelowna has embraced the competition,” says James. “Every event was a sell-out — and it was great to see guests from across the country showing up to support their chefs. We’ve grown remarkably quickly in the last seven years and in the fall we’ll be adding Halifax into the mix.”
Edmonton’s 2013 Gold Medal Plates event is on October 24. For information and tickets visit goldmedalplates.com.
James Chatto is the national culinary advisor and head judge for Gold Medal Plates, senior editor of Food & Drink Magazine and online and print editor for Harry magazine.
Marc St. Jacques
Auberge du Pommier
Auberge du Pommier, a staid but charming French restaurant in a pretty stone cottage at the north end of Toronto, has long been a fixture in the city, appreciated by patrons as the place to take mother for her birthday and she-who-must-be-obeyed for that important anniversary. Even its current chef, Marc St. Jacques, recalls dining there as a teenager with his parents. St. Jacques left Canada to spend nearly two decades training and cooking in the U.S., where he was instrumental in earning a Michelin star for celebrity chef Michael Mina’s kitchen at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. When he returned to Hogtown two years ago, he freshened up Auberge’s classical French menu with a palate of limpid, vibrant flavours more often associated with Asian cuisine. The combination is now (officially) a winning one: the gold medal at the 2013 Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna, B.C.
For his finale at the three-part competition, he relied on Japanese accents to breathe new life into a French classic, employing roasted meyer lemon curd, snippings of shiso leaves and crunchy sesame tempura as bold counterpoints to an earthy foie gras terrine sandwiched between a correctly dense sesame financier and a glassy soy gelée. “It’s got to be yummy,” remarked the slouching 6’5” giant with an easy smile and casual demeanour that belied the plate’s impressive technique and rigour. And it was.
Sasha Chapman is a senior editor at Walrus Magazine and the senior Gold Medal Plates judge for Toronto.
I first walked into OZ in 2007 and thought this place didn’t have a hope. Might as well be in Kansas: too tucked out of sight and with obscure signage that begged the question — what’s an OZ? Then lo and behold, a bearded burly guy whose shirt introduced him as “Dorothy” served me food with a serious wow factor. Six years later the OZ Kafé is firmly embedded in the hearts of a loyal Centretown neighbourhood, has become the darling of the after hours restaurant community, and last weekend at the Canadian Culinary Championships, its young chef Jamie Stunt secured a silver medal. (Meanwhile, back home, a remarkably supportive bunch of Ottawa chefs took over the OZ kitchen, to keep the restaurant open and hopping while Stunt and his team were competing in Kelowna.)
News was the queue at Stunt’s competition station was long. The word at the Grande Finale was out: the Ottawa chef was serving beer and yak! Yes, yak. From Tiraislin Farms in the Ottawa Valley. The beer he chose to pair with the beast was from the Ashton Brewing Company: a pale, aromatic beer infused with lemongrass and Kaffir lime. It wound its way admirably into every element of Stunt’s dish — from the perfectly ruby red yak striploin to the tamari sauce fashioned with the beer’s malted wort, to the barley miso mayo, the smoked boar vinaigrette, the quince relish. Stunt remained steadily in second place throughout the three trials of this fundraising competition, to emerge on the podium with Toronto’s Marc St. Jacques and Regina’s Milton Rebello.
You’d simply be brainless not to head to OZ when you find yourself hungry in the nation’s capital.
Restaurant critic Anne DesBrisay is the senior Gold Medal Plates judge for Ottawa.
Hotel Saskatchewan Radisson Plaza
Regina’s Milton Rebello had his game face on. In the months leading up to Kelowna, he obsessed about earning a spot on the podium. Countless hours were spent researching suppliers, competitors and judges. Possible dishes for the black box competition were scoped out, and he practised and practised his finale dish. But the time paid off. His mystery wine dish — a visually stunning and tasty composed plate of duck three ways was a beautiful match and one of the prettiest of the evening. He admits he wasn’t prepared for the caviar curve ball in the black box. Expecting some sort of fish instead of a small tin of caviar, he rebounded with two plates that kept him in the running. But it was his Grande Finale dish that impressed the judges. The tender Indian spiced lamb chop nestled next to a showy maple leaf-shaped lentil tuile cradling a soft ball of warm goat cheese danced with the See Ya Later Ranch 2010 Pinot Noir. It was a stellar weekend that put Saskatchewan on the culinary map.
CJ Katz is the author of Taste, Seasonal Dishes from a Prairie Table, and senior Gold Medal Plates judge for Saskatchewan.