A Gold Medal Plates first!

Chef Briana Kim. (Photo credit Brian Chambers)

With Toronto’s Gold Medal Plates now behind us (the final culinary showdown in the eleven city run) we know the full roster of chefs from coast to coast who will be duking it out in Kelowna at the Canadian Culinary Championships in February. Our Ottawa chef, Briana Kim of Café My House, will be the only woman in the competition. What’s more, she will be the only vegan chef entry in the ten year history of the CCC. I can’t wait to see how she rises to the occasion. Judging from her performance last week, I believe she’ll be amazing!

Here’s Kim’s competition:

From Edmonton, Shane Chartrand of Sage

From Regina, David Vinoya of Wild Sage Kitchen

From Montreal, Eric Gonzalez of L’Atelier Joel Robuchon

From Halifax, Barry Mooney of Gio

From St. John’s, Nick Jewcyk of The Fifth Ticket

From Vancouver, Alex Chen of Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar

From Saskatoon, James McFarland, from the University of Saskatchewan

From Winnipeg, Mike Robins of Sous Sol

From Canmore, AB, Blake Flann, of Blake restaurant

From Toronto, chef Lorenzo Loseto of George restaurant

Ottawa GMP podium: Yannick LaSalle, Briana Kim, Steve Harris. (photo credit: Brian Chambers)

I had the pleasure of judging the Gold Medal Plates for the 12th time. Here’s my November 9th report:

The twelfth annual Canadian culinary road trip, known as Gold Medal Plates, rolled into Ottawa last night. More than six hundred guests, chefs, sommeliers, brewmasters, winemakers, athletes, musicians, and volunteers packed the Shaw Centre to eat, drink and make merry. Our athletes were honoured, trips were auctioned off, musicians entertained us, and funds were raised to support Canada’s Olympic hopefuls. But the stars of Gold Medal Plates 2017 were the ten chefs, feeding the crowd and presenting their competition plates to a panel of judges tasked with the gut pleasing/wrenching decision of defining three winners. One of whom would go on to represent the city at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna, BC, in February.

The competing chefs, some of them veterans from past years, most of them brand new to the event, rose to the occasion with dishes of striking beauty, creativity and finesse. The chefs chose to work with everything from eel to seal, elk to uni.  Dishes were paired with craft beer, Canadian wine, Quebec cider, Ontario sake, and a Manhattan cocktail with elk-marrow infused rye whiskey and fermented blueberries. Indeed, Gold Medal Plates is no longer an event that teams up Canadian chefs with Canadian wines. Increasingly, beers and spirits are stepping up to play their hand in the matching game.

So at the end of the night, who stood on the podium? And who will go on to compete in Kelowna? Well, curiously (and fabulously) they are all first-time competitors!

Steve Harris dish. Photo, Brian Chambers

Taking the bronze medal was chef Steve Harris of Two Six Ate with a dish that focused over (and over and, charmingly, over) again on sea urchin: in a yummy little sausage with pork belly, in a delicate mousse encased in a smoky dashi broth gelée, and sweetly briny in its scooped-out raw form. Pickled kohlrabi, a whey-fermented ground cherry molasses, and squid ink tapioca pearls cupped in a squid ink chip finished the plate. Harris’ wine pairing was the 2016 Embrace Riesling from Casa Dea Winery in Prince Edward County.

Yannick LaSalle silver medal dish (photo: Brian Chambers)

The silver medal went to Les Fougeres chef Yannick LaSalle. Though his principal protein was wild Arctic char from Nunavut (cooked sous vide) it was the fantastic Butternut squash purée on the pretty plate that was most memorable element. Sourced from Roots & Shoots Farm, Yannick roasted the squash and combined it with beurre noisette, dry sherry, and his family’s own maple syrup. The sweetness was controlled with bitter red endive, tart Venosta cranberries, and with a vinaigrette of cranberry juice, maple syrup, squash oil and ginger. For crunch, fried wild rice, crushed sesame seeds with coarse salt, and little squash crackers. The 2015 unfiltered Chardonnay from Norman Hardie Winery was a terrific match.

Gold medal dish from Briana Kim. (photo Brian Chambers)

Our gold medallist for 2017 is Briane Kim of the vegetarian restaurant Café My House. Her win represents a first, in the history of GMP in Ottawa, and quite possibly in the country, that a vegetarian dish has out-muscled the meatier competition. Kim wowed the judges with a simple dish of mushrooms – miso marinated, smoked, and mousse-ed. Sharing the bowl were bursts of sweet and juice from pickled pear and compressed cucumber, bits of charred cabbage, a slice of blistered shishito pepper, and petals of pearl onion. Kim then poured an umami-potent broth overtop, starring kombu and charred onion. Resting on the lip of the bowl, a brown rice cracker, speckled with fennel and coriander seeds. It was simple dish, but complex in flavour and beautifully balanced. Kim matched her dish not with wine (or beer or cider or rye), but with sake. From the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company, Junmai Genshu, light and fruity, but also rich and complex, much like Briane Kim’s dish.

Congratulations to all the chefs. It was a brilliant showing. And to Briane Kim, your city salutes you!

Kim will now move on to the national competition this February in Kelowna, BC, with ten other chefs from St. John’s to Victoria. Not sure how a vegetarian chef will manage a black box competition which traditionally contains all sorts of meaty and fishy things…but it will be such fun to find out!

Enormously grateful to my fellow judges: House of Commons Executive Chef and Chair of the Canadian Culinary Federation, Judson Simpson; Thyme & Again Creative Catering owner and industry trailblazer, Sheila Whyte; chef/owner of Atelier and two-time Canadian Culinary Champion Marc Lepine; culinary historian, founder and publisher of Taste &Travel Magazine, Dr. Janet Boileau; last year’s gold medallist, chef Joe Thottungal of Coconut Lagoon; and National Culinary Advisor for GMP, James Chatto.




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