It took place last night at the Big White ski resort, in a magnificent mountain chalet called White Spirit Lodge: this was Marc Lepine’s “Last Supper Celebration” as the Canadian Culinary Champion, and though it was a night to make merry and launch the CCC of 2013, it was also a night to honour this gifted Ottawa chef and sous chef Jason Sawision, who had so utterly wowed the judges this time last year. So we did that by watching Lepine and his young team work damn hard and savouring his spectacular food.
The feast began with oysters that burbled with horseradish foam. Then Qualicum Bay scallops set in a rich lemon-shallot butter sauce and with dollops of New Brunswick’s Acadian Sturgeon caviar. And because this is Marc Lepine, a dozen other delectable bits and pieces including these tiny potatoes the size of marbles, and with pickled Lion’s Mane mushrooms, compressed celery, dehydrated fennel, crispy bacon, and pepper cress, all finished with a spritz of lemon-sambucca. For those in the kitchen who remembered Lepine’s winning dish of Gold Medal Plates 2011, this felt like a fork down memory lane.
A fat croquette of foie gras came next, with a thick Chanterelles mushroom soup poured around it, the richness cut with a splash of iced apple cider. And then a course to help you rid your palate of oysters and foie gras, scallops and caviar and exotic mushrooms… and ready it for BC Wagyu beef. We were handed a snowy sorbet of coconut and lime with Kaffir leaf pulverized to powder, and then furnished with test tubes of pineapple syrup to squirt overtop – I had two of these, just to make sure I was ready for the beef. Which arrived ruby rare, and set in an intensely rich and corny corn sauce. There were other things, of course – including pickled pearl onions and celery ribbons, micro kale and paper thin rounds of radish, but it was the overtop shavings of Perigord winter truffles that were such fragrant treats.
Lepine will be a tough act to follow. Three days from now, on Saturday night in Kelowna, one of the ten chefs now assembled here, chefs from Newfoundland to BC, and including Ottawa’s own, Jamie Stunt of OZ Kafe, will be handed over the title of Canadian Culinary Champion, after the scores from the three part competition are tabled. But last night belonged to Marc Lepine and didn’t he make us proud.