And they’re off…Canadian Culinary Championships 2016


It’s shopping day! The eleven competing chefs have spent the night drinking wine, dreaming food, and making a list, and are now scouring the Kelowna markets for provisions to create a winning plate. This is my favourite competition: The Mystery Wine Pairing.


Each chef was handed an unmarked bottle last night. They all know two things about it: it’s a red wine, and it’s Canadian wine. The other thing they know is that for tonight’s competition, the first of three, the plate of food they dream up needs to shake hands big time with that wine. The wine compatibility score is 30% of the total mark tonight.

And the final thing they know – and this is the fun part – the dish had better be a frugal one. Each chef has been given a wad of cash ($500). The catch? They need to make 400 small plates from that 500 bucks, to feed the judges, the athletes and the guests. Every itsy bitsy bit of food on that plate must be purchased in Kelowna. No speck of microgreen, no pearl of caviar can appear on it unless it has a corresponding entry in a receipt. They can beg, borrow or steal. Well, maybe not steal. But they can use all their bartering charms if needs be to get that little bit of luxury on the plate. Or else we’ll be eating a lot of lentils tonight. (Nothing wrong with that. It is the Year of the Pulse after all…) This is the competition I find most fascinating. What dish can they dream up to dance with the wine and cost a buck twenty five?

I’ll let you know… As for Team Atelier?

Atelier chefs Justin Champagne, Jason Sawision, Marc Lepine

Here they are, being introduced to the competition before being linked up with the two culinary students from Okanagan College who will be assisting them and learning from them. Chef/owner Marc Lepine, sous chef Jason Sawision, chef de partie Justin Champagne-Lagarde, (and sommelier Steve Robinson) – are no rookies. They’ve shopped these shops before. In 2012, Marc Lepine and Jason Sawision made Ottawa bustin proud: they won the competition and they won it well and handily. Indeed, Marc Lepine is the first Canadian Culinary Champion to return to the competition for another kick at the cup.

Let the games begin!


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