DesBrisay Dines: The Poor Chefs Competition 2017
DesBrisay Dines

DesBrisay Dines: The Poor Chefs Competition 2017

What does $3.15 get you?

If you’re Harriet Clunie, winner of this year’s Poor Chefs Competition, it gets you a year’s worth of free knife sharpening from the fine folks at Knifewear. It also gives you the glory of seeing your name on a shiny silver cup. And probably bragging rights that a plate of butternut squash, brown rice, and a poached egg can get you the trophy.


This was the second year of the Poor Chefs Competition, a brilliant charity event in support Operation Come Home and the advocacy and support work they do for homeless youth in this city. The Poor Chefs is a playful competition meant to highlight how challenging it can be to prepare a nutritious, delicious meal on a severely limited budget.

Three dollars and fifteen cents was the budget. With that paltry sum, each of the five competing chefs had the task of coming up with a pretty plate of tasty, nourishing food, using three items of ‘commonly donated ingredients’ to the Food Bank, each plate costing no more than $3.15 to make. Plates were marked for taste, presentation, and creativity by a panel of six judges.

Low budget cookery is nothing new for ingenious cooks — making delicious food with limited funds is something they do every day. Although possibly not this limited… and for Clunie, a rushed reader, ridiculously so.

“I misread the rules,” Clunie announced. “I really just glanced at them and got shopping.”

The Beechwood Gastropub chef had thought the $3.15 was to cover all six plates. Which was probably why we were eating poached eggs. Clunie’s three ‘commonly donated’ ingredients were squash, eggs, and spinach. She bought a cup of brown rice, a handful of chickpeas, a radish, a chile, and probably a quarter’s worth of harissa spices – cumin, coriander, caraway, paprika – from Bulk Barn. She roasted off cubes of the squash and whipped up a silken purée, aromatic with the warming spices she bought. She made a brown rice pilaf threaded with wilted spinach and spicy chickpeas, and crowned the dish with a perfectly poached egg dusted with toasted spices and topped with a chiffonade of radish.


All the dishes were remarkable. And delicious. Clunie’s was simple and flawless.

Congratulations to the organizers and supporters of the competition, to chef Chris Lord of Knifewear Ottawa, and to the five competing chefs who stepped up and donated their time and their giving spirit – Darren Flowers of Union Local 613, Ryan Edwards of Salt Dining & Lounge, Lizardo Becerra from Andaz Ottawa, Victor Coloma from Johnny Farina, and Harriet Clunie (Beechwood Gastropub), whose name is now next to that of Stephen LaSalle, the 2016 winner of the Poor Chef cup.