By Anne DesBrisay
Roger Andrews, from Relish Restaurant in St. John’s, Newfoundland, chose to stuff squab with chanterelles and pistachios and cook the package sous vide. There were other elements on his competition plate, including a reduction of Labrador tea in his jus. It was a dish that secured the chef — quite handily apparently — a gold medal at the St. John’s Gold Medal Plates late last week.
St. John’s was number nine in the Gold Medal Plates cross country culinary competitions, in support of Canada’s olympic athletes. This makes Andrews the ninth contender who will be moving on to the intense duelling-to-come at the Canadian Culinary Championship in Kelowna this February. There he’ll face down regional champs from ten other cities — Vancouver/Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, and St John’s, NFLD/Labrador.
Tonight, we shine the spotlight on our own. This is Ottawa’s night. I expect it will be quite the glittering party at the National Arts Centre — chefs and winemakers, small plates and matching drinks, along with a star studded cast of Olympic athletes, Canadian musicians, enticing prizes, merry auctions. Indeed, the event has been sold out for weeks, and tonight’s the night we wrest the title of Ottawa-Gatineau Gold Medal Plates Culinary Champion 2012 from Jamie Stunt (formerly of OZ Kafé) who went on to represent us so well at the national level, bringing home a silver medal from Kelowna.
Duking it out tonight are Jason Duffy of the ARC Lounge; René Rodriguez of Navarra; Marysol Foucault of Edgar; Jonathan Korecki of Sidedoor; Frédéric Filliodeau of the Carleton Grill at the Sheraton Ottawa; Chris Deraiche of The Wellington Gastropub; Katie Brown Ardington of Beckta Dining and Wine; and Marc Doiron of Town. Some have competed before (Duffy, Rodriguez, Korecki, Deraiche) but the others are first timers. All, I would suspect, have been working and reworking their competition plate since they were first asked to present one last spring.
Who will judge them? Toronto’s James Chatto, the GMP National Culinary Advisor, will join our table of local judges: House of Commons chef Judson Simpson; cookbook authors, educators and TV chefs Margaret Dickenson and Pam Collacott; long time owner of Thyme and Again, Sheila Whyte; last year’s gold medallist (who went on to place second at the Canadian Culinary Championship), chef Jamie Stunt, as last year’s champ; and yours truly, as senior judge for Ottawa/Gatineau.
Gold Medal Plates is a fundraiser for Canadian Olympic athletes and has raised more than $7 million since it all began back in 2006. In the past we’ve sent some fine Ottawa-Gatineau chefs to compete at the Canadian Culinary Championships, the likes of Mike Moffatt (Beckta), Michael Blackie (formerly Brookstreet Hotel and National Arts Centre), Charles Part (Les Fougeres), Matthew Carmichael (Restaurant 18), Marc Lepine (Atelier, and our Canadian Culinary Champion of 2012); and Jamie Stunt, who will be feted one last time tonight as last year’s victor.
I can’t wait to see who we send this year. Let the parade of plates begin — full report to come.