Imagine this: in one hour, produce 2 dishes, plated 24 times, using these six ingredients: organic Alberta lamb shoulder and neck, Ontario Red Fife wheat, BC kale, Anjou pears, Okanagan goat Gruyere cheese and Northern Divine Canadian Caviar. Ten minutes to declare the two plates you plan to execute and a further 50 minutes to get the job done and food plated.
Add camera crews, an eager audience and a chatty master of ceremonies (referee/judge Andrew Morrison from Vancouver’s Scout Magazine) and there’s no doubt whatso but that these guys and gal are remarkably gifted. Some didn’t break a sweat. Others were clearly struggling with the pressure. But all of them produced, most of them on time, and the judges were enormously impressed with the creativity on the plates. Yes, we ate a heck of a lot of Irish style lamb stew. But we also encountered a cheesey bannock cake (Jamie Stunt of OZ); a pear milles- feuilles dressed with caviar (Toronto chef Marc St. Jacques); an East meets West paratha-tortilla using the Red Fife lined with omelette, and a fritter topped with a tagine of lamb and pear (Chef Milton Rebello from the Hotel Saskatchewan). We had a pear tarte Tatin on a Gruyere shortbread. We had lamb sausages, lamb Bolognese, and spaetzle. We had a few Red Fife pancakes and one chef (Montreal chef Daren Bergeron) even fed us breakfast, fashioning the lamb into a sausage and siding it with a perfectly poached egg wrapped in panko.
Ottawa’s Jamie Stunt started us off with a sweet little cheesey bannock cake topped with lemoned cream, crispy thyme, pickled onion and caviar. For dish #2, he pickled the pears, added a hint of mint, made a bone-jus, crisped up some onions, sauteed the kale with garlic and lemon and gave us a full flavoured lamb stew.
As I type, the chefs are at the Delta Okanagan readying their stations for the Grande Finale: the third and final challenge, and sometime around midnight Kelowna time, someone will be tackling Ottawa’s Marc Lepine (our 2012 CCC champ) and wrenching from his hands the Canadian Culinary Championship cup. There will be a new Canadian chef to champion for 2013, as we head to the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Amidst all the flashing knives and kitchen drama and endless plates of brilliant food, we can overlook what this event is really about: celebrating Canadian excellence in food and wine, music and sports, while raising funds to support our Canadian athletes as they prepare for the Olympic podium.