Kicking it in Kelowna

Karl Wells
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St. John’s chef makes strong showing in B.C.

On the day Canada’s utterly charming Dufour-Lapointe sisters won gold and silver medals respectively in Sochi for moguls, Chef Lorenzo Loseto of Toronto’s George Restaurant stepped onto the podium in Kelowna, B.C.

He also won gold, and the victory was sweet.

Loseto is the Canadian Culinary Championships (CCC) champion for 2014. It was his eighth year competing in Gold Medal Plates, the regional qualifying event, and his first run at the national competition.

CCC silver went to Chef Duncan Ly of Calgary and bronze was awarded to Chef Danny St. Pierre of Montreal.

Chef Roger Andrews of St. John’s made a strong showing in the overall standings and told me he intends to “return to Kelowna one day and win.”

This year the championships, an event designed to raise funds for Canadian Olympic athletes, coincided for the first time with the Olympic Games. The synchronicity served to make it an even more exciting event.

At the same time attendees were cheering on the best chefs in Canada, they were also rooting enthusiastically for Canada's top Olympians in Russia.

All of this was taking place in an Okanagan setting that itself looked like a beautiful winter playground.

Kelowna is, for the first time in many years, experiencing a taste of something close to winter weather.

The ground is snow-covered and temperatures at times have dropped to the minus double digits.

Relish

Andrews is owner/operator of Relish Gourmet Burgers in St. John’s. He is also a culinary instructor with the College of the North Atlantic. Sous chef Gary Gosse accompanied Andrews to Kelowna.

Through three separate competitions it was pretty much a horse race between most of the 11 competitors from across the nation. But it was the finale Saturday night that saw enough gaps (albeit small) develop between competitors to identify the three top performers of the competition.

The CCC is divided into three separate challenges: wine pairing, black box, grand finale. On the evening before the wine pairing challenge, each chef was given a bottle of mystery wine.

They tasted it and pondered what they could make that would, as one judge said, “make the wine and food sing.”

To make the challenge even more difficult, chefs were told they must prepare 425 plates for guests, as well as plates for the judges, with a budget of only $550.

Andrews prepared a maple lacquered smoked pork belly with mushroom ragout, olive oil poached cherry tomato and aerated goat cheese. The wine was eventually revealed to be Laughing Stock Vineyard’s Blind Trust 2012, a blend of pinot gris, pinot blanc and viognier.

Even though pork belly has become something of a cliché, it was an excellent ingredient to pair with the B.C. white.

The fatty pork gave the acidity in the wine something to work on and helped create a balance between dish and wine. I thought it was a strong pairing.

Black box

The second challenge, known as “the black box” is by far the most difficult.

Judges prepare a hamper of mystery ingredients that are revealed only 10 minutes before chefs begin preparing two original dishes from them. All ingredients must be used. Two dishes and 12 judges meant each chef, assisted by sous chef, had to prepare 24 plates.

This year’s mystery ingredients included: whole chicken, trout, lion’s mane mushrooms, parsnips, carmine jewel cherries, honey butter. A range of pantry staples was also supplied, including a selection of fresh herbs and spices.

Andrews, like most competitors, chose to make a plate featuring the trout and one starring the chicken.

His first dish included honey butter and mint glazed trout with tomato jam, sautéed spinach with garlic and haskap berry reduction. (Haskap berry juice was a pantry ingredient.)

Andrews’ second dish was thyme roasted chicken breast, a bar of pan-seared potato, parsnip purée and butter braised lion’s mane fungus.

Finale

The finale challenge utilizes much of the convention space at the Delta Grand Hotel in Kelowna, with guests numbering in excess of 500.

Chefs were required to cook for all of them, as well as judges. Normally, chefs bring their gold winning regional dish to the CCC finale.

However, sometimes, if a chef does not feel the dish will be competitive enough for the national competition, he or she will either change the dish completely or make improvements.

Chef Martin Ruiz Salvador of Lunenburg, N.S., changed his entirely. He went from a Maritime breakfast plate to one starring Nova Scotia lobster poached in Atlantic Ocean water.

Andrews’ plate was essentially the same gold winning dish he prepared for Gold Medal Plates St. John’s. It was delicious here and likewise in Kelowna.

Paired with a Norman Hardie Pinot Noir 2012 from Prince Edward County, Ont., was sous vide squab (pigeon) stuffed with chanterelles and pistachios, squab jus infused with Labrador tea (a low lying shrub), puffed wild rice salad with Newfoundland berries, edible flowers and hibiscus vinaigrette, and spiced squash purée.

Being a CCC judge is a privilege I take very seriously, as do all my colleagues.

We respect each other’s opinions and the process we employ is democratic. In all the years I have been judging I’ve never once felt that a single medal was awarded to the wrong chef.

In the meantime, I do believe Roger Andrews and sous chef Gary Gosse should be extremely proud of what they accomplished in Kelowna. They performed consistently well and gave further proof on the national stage that we do have skilled and talented chefs in Newfoundland and Labrador.

• • •

For regular updates on “One Chef One Critic,” my Telegram Dining Out column and the latest developments on the local culinary scene, please follow me on Twitter @karl_wells

Karl Wells is an accredited personal chef, author of

“Cooking with One Chef One Critic” and recipient of awards from the national body of the Canadian Culinary Federation and the Restaurant Association of

Newfoundland and Labrador. He is also a restaurant

panellist with enRoute Magazine.

Contact him through his website,

www.karlwells.com.

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic, Olympic Games, Blind Trust Delta Grand Hotel Canadian Culinary Federation Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Kelowna, Canada, Calgary Okanagan Newfoundland Lunenburg Atlantic Ocean Kelowna.Paired Prince Edward

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