These pages have been fairly Silver-for-Stunt focused, for good and obvious reasons. But I thought you might be interested in our Canadian Culinary Champ for 2013. His name is Marc St. Jacques and he hails from Auberge du Pommier in north Toronto.
From my very brief encounters with him, St Jacques struck me as a solidly nice guy in addition to being a clearly gifted chef. His wine pairing dish was stunning. A study of red, with much attention paid to texture on the plate. Though it didn’t secure him enormous
advantage as he stepped into the ring for Round Two.
St Jacques approached the Black Box in fourth place. He was further stymied with a five point deduction for going over his one hour limit (by seconds). Nevertheless, he entered the third and final event with a clear lead. Such was the power of his Black Box.
He delivered something that made us all – regional judges from St John’s to Vancouver – rise up on our sits bones and gasp with pleasure. Here was something fresh and light and original.
He had taken the Black Box anjou pear and made what he called a mille-feuilles, a raw galette of sorts, drizzled with a olive oil and dusted with lemon zest and somewhere, a suggestion of ginger. He had cubed some pears and gently warmed them in the same vinaigrette, adding the caviar from the Black Box, and finishing the plate with a touch of celery leaf. A study of green and black, you might say, well balanced and elegant.
You begin to get a sense of the Marc St. Jacques style when you see his Finale Dish. A fellow who paid attention in geometry class methinks. He gave us a rectangular cuboid, that began with a base of black sesame financier (with egg whites and almond meal) added a magnificent mousse/torchon of foie gras and painted the top with a thin layer of white soy gelée spiked with mirin and Meyer lemon. Dobs of lemon curd, crackles of black sesame seed-studded tempura batter and a tiny square of shiso all threw gentle curve balls at the main attraction.
One of the greatest pleasures for me, of being a judge at the Canadian Culinary Championships is seeing the relationships that develop amongst the chefs. Here assemble Canadian chefs and sous chefs, cooks and culinary students who typically don’t know each other. Never heard of each other. Thousands of kilometres separate them. They come to Kelowna, the five year home of the CCC, and somewhere over the course of a very busy weekend, they chat. About their restaurants, their careers, their kids. They exchange information on regional suppliers. They learn about some great Canadian wines, beers and spirits. And what develops through these bonds, is a greater and stronger sense of what it means to be cooking Canadian. It simply raises the bar across the country.
The backdrop for all of this, of course, is the Canadian athletes, whose pursuit of excellence in sport infuses the weekend with a heightened sense of purpose. It’s impossible not to weep when you watch those videos of Canadian Olympic moments past. They remind us what this tasty event is all about.
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