Kris Kshonze, newly-minted head chef of Soif bar a vin, has been crowned champion of the 2018 Poor Chefs Competition. His will be third name added to the trophy, behind those of Harriet Clunie, last year’s winner, and Stephen LaSalle, whose Scotch egg took top honours in 2016. Just as those who won before him, Kshonze’s prize, beyond bragging rights, is a year of free knife sharpening courtesy of chef Chris Lord and his team at Ottawa’s Knifewear.
The Poor Chefs Competition supports the good work of the not-for-profit Operation Come Home and the advocacy the organization does for at risk youth in this city. It’s a playful contest and the mood is merry, but the cause is serious and the need great.
The six chefs who compete are given a budget of $3.15 per plate. They’re allowed two items of ‘commonly donated ingredients’ to the Food Bank and with those and the paltry sum of cash, are tasked with preparing a nutritious, delicious plate of food for a panel of judges.
This year, the issue of minimizing waste was highlighted over and over again, as the chefs mined a single precious ingredient for all it was worth. Kshonze roasted beef bones till the marrow spilled out, then used that fat source to cook his onion, garlic, and the coffee mushrooms he used to tart up the can of mixed beans he had sourced from the food bank. He also also bought a bag of frozen edamame to mix with the beans, a can of tomato paste for body and flavour, a small container of sour cream, one green onion, a turnip to make a little crunchy julienne slaw, and (here’s where it gets brilliant) a can of smoked oysters. It was those oysters, chopped and mixed with the cream, that lifted the dish from ordinary to wow. The saltine crackers – also sourced from the food bank – were the comforting bit of salty crunch.
The other five chefs—Stephen LaSalle (Andaz Hotel), David Schaub (The Ketchup Project), Jessica Willis (Big Easy’s), Joey Boileau (The Senator), and defending champion Harriet Clunie (Beechwood Gastropub) – also competed valiantly, presenting inventive dishes on puny budgets. The Poor Chefs’ further highlights the generosity of the chefs in this city who step up to give back to causes worthwhile with remarkable constancy.
Food for guests of this year’s event was provided by FoodWorks, Operation Come Home’s social enterprise, supervised by chef Bruce Wood.
Congratulations to all the chefs, and in particular to Kris Kshonze and to Operation Come Home for hosting another successful event in support of food security for homeless youth.