Kelowna Hosts Canadian Culinary Championships

When 11 of the top Canadian chefs gather in one place, food lovers rush for tickets to sample their magical creations

When 11 of the top Canadian chefs gather in one place, food lovers rush for tickets to sample their magical creations

The Gold Medal Plates Canadian Culinary Championships were recently held in Kelowna, and the event saw chefs from as far as Halifax and as near as Vancouver compete in a series of intense tests of their culinary skills (with proceeds going to the Canadian Olympic Foundation to support high performance athletes). These chefs were chosen from their own region’s competitions, where the top chef from each region then moved forward to this finale.

Moving from west to east, the chefs in the ring for 2016 included:

  1. Alex Chen (pictured above), Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, Vancouver
  2. Matthew Batey, The Nash Restaurant & Off Cut Bar, Calgary
  3. Jan Trittenbach, Solstice Seasonal Cuisine, Edmonton
  4. Jonathan Thauberger, Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar, Regina
  5. Darren Craddock, Riverside Country Club, Saskatoon
  6. Norm Pastorin, The Cornerstone Bar & Restaurant, Winnipeg
  7. Stuart Cameron, Byblos, Toronto
  8. Marc Lepine, Atelier, Ottawa
  9. Guillaume Cantin, Les 400 Coups, Montreal
  10. Roger Andrews, Relish Gourmet Burgers, St. John’s
  11. Martin Ruiz Salvador, Fleur de Sel, Lunenburg, Halifax

Click through to find out who was crowned the 2016 Culinary Champion.

Step One: Mystery Wine Pairing

In the first of three tests, the chefs were given a mystery bottle of wine and $500 to shop for the ingredients to serve a small plate for 400 guests. The goal was to create the perfect pairing.

Guests roamed the room with the wine in hand and sampled each dish to determine a People’s Choice award. The wine was revealed as a 2014 Gamay Noir from the Niagara Peninsula’s Tawse Winery and the people choose the top dish to be that of Chef Alex Chen of Vancouver’s Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar. Chen and his team produced a slow braised oxtail with smoked mayonnaise, parsley garlic puree, and borscht emulsion. Beets were a recurring theme throughout the room, echoing some notes in the wine.

Step Two: The Black Box

The following day, the chefs arrived at the kitchens at Okanagan College where they were given a box of seven mystery ingredients out of which they then had to use to rapidly craft 13 dishes each worthy of the culinary judges’ praise.

This year’s box included ground elk, squid, peanuts, lentils, salsify, seaweed and capersa list that would truly test creativity. The resulting dishes were highly varied and, according to the report from judge James Chatto, highlights included the elk meatballs from chef Marc Lepine, elk-stuffed dumplings spiced with chili and cumin from chef Stuart Cameron, and elk tartar with an umami broth from chef Matt Batey—but the food critic had high praise for all.

While the attendees could watch the competition, they didn’t have the opportunity to sample these dishes but were well-fed with delectable dishes made by the talented culinary students of Okanagan College.

The Finale

Each chef’s team worked diligently on the final night’s recipe, 10 of them using a variation of the dish that won them their regional championships and only one, Vancouver’s Chef Alex Chen, inventing an entirely new plate. Guests roamed the rooms sampling the wine-paired dishes, sipping on cocktails and finally gathering at tables for dessert, speeches and entertainment before the final judgement was unveiled. 

Bronze went to British Columbia’s Alex Chen from Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar for his truffle-scented chicken, celeriac fondant, foie gras stuffed celery, “umami” consommé, paired with the Foxtrot Vineyards, 2009 Pinot Noir.

Silver went to Calgary’s Matthew Batey of The Nash Restaurant & Off Cut Bar who served alder-smoked sablefish, Pacific octopus compression, Northern Divine Caviar, Yukon Gold potato, sabayon paired with the Road 13, 2011 Sparkling Chenin Blanc.

And, for the second time in culinary history, Chef Marc Lepine took home the gold medal after the smoked steelhead trout with Miso molasses glaze, cured pork belly, barley and corn porridge, corn cob broth paired with Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard 2012 Chardonnay stunned both judges and attendees.

While the battle is over for 2016, new and returning chefs across the country are already preparing their knives and narrowing down the list of ingredients they will choose in the hopes of making it to Kelowna for 2017.