Last year, British mathematician Alex Bellos polled 30,000 people about their favourite number. A majority said it was seven, and 10 per cent of them said they consider seven to be their “lucky” number.
Next month, Gold Medal Plates St. John’s marks its seventh anniversary. Local chairman Scott Giannou and his co-organizers are hoping it will be an especially lucky and successful event given the numeral associated with the Tuesday, Nov. 12th fête.
The nucleus of every Gold Medal Plates gala is a culinary competition among local restaurant chefs. Previous gold medallists have included Jeremy Charles of Raymonds, Shaun Hussey of Chinched, Roger Andrews of Relish, and, last year, Mark McCrowe (who returns this year as a judge). On Nov. 12, eight superlative St. John’s chefs gather at the Delta St. John’s to participate in an honourable tournament that will see one of their number crowned champion.
In addition to the gold medallion and gold plate awarded, as well as the prestige accompanying such a feat, our champion gains the right to compete against the best chefs in Canada at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna, B.C. this February. So far, the highest accolade attained at the national challenge by a Newfoundland and Labrador chef was the silver medal win by Jeremy Charles in 2011.
When asked what Gold Medal Plates is looking for in its chef competitors, James Chatto, national culinary adviser for Gold Medal Plates said, “Sincerity. Creativity. Sophistication — which might mean simplicity or complexity or both. I want it to be food — so it has to taste great as well as being beautiful and intellectually stimulating. At this level, a chef is an artist, so I want to see her or his passion and personality on the plate, as well as technical proficiency.”
Chefs invited to take part in this year’s competition have been selected because Gold Medal Plates senior judges (including yours truly) believe that they possess the talent and skills to deliver everything outlined by James Chatto. Who are these able and artistic chefs poised to enter into competition next month?
Adam Grevatt of Blue on Water spent the bulk of his career cooking in Western Canada. Before coming to Newfoundland he worked under the acclaimed chef, Nick Nutting, at Wickaninnish Inn, Vancouver Island, B.C. Grevatt likes to use seasonal ingredients in his cooking and plans to make a preserved Newfoundland summer ingredient the star of his Gold Medal Plates dish.
One 11 Chophouse chef, Chris Chafe, has been cooking since age 17. Having learned on the job in all kinds of restaurants it’s no surprise when he claims, “My cuisine is always changing and evolving.” The former Gold Medal Plates silver medallist likes to use complementary ingredients in “unique, fun and creative ways.” In November he plans just such a dish using lamb as the main ingredient.
Roger Andrews is a former Gold Medal Plates gold medallist with 20 years in food service. He loves culinary competitions and believes in allowing top quality ingredients to “speak for themselves with only minor manipulation.” Andrews is offering a dish this year that, to say the least, sounds intriguing. It’s called “Eggs and Toast” and involves “various applications using toast and eggs based on a classic style of service.”
Whenever a Newfoundland chef returns home to share the knowledge and skill he’s gained from working and learning in large culinary hotbeds (often very large cities), that’s a good thing. Chris Hounsell worked for many years in Toronto, ending up as chef at Bistro 990 where he cooked for a multitude of A-list celebrities during the annual Toronto International Film Festival. Currently he is executive chef at Courtyard Marriott and can usually be found at the stove in the hotel’s Harbour Room Restaurant and Lounge. He proffers no hints about what he will cook for Gold Medal Plates but look for something local and innovative.
Oppidan chef Roary MacPherson is without question the most experienced chef in this year’s competition having worked as a chef in five Alberta hotels, and in his current position with the Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland since 2003. Having grown up on a farm he has a genuine affinity for traditional Newfoundland ingredients and plans to present Newfoundland lamb with local haskap berries as his 2015 Gold Medal Plates dish.
European restaurants in Germany, Switzerland and England provided the Delta’s Steven Gugelmeier with an invaluable culinary education. This experience culminated in time spent cooking at the famed Marco Pierre White’s Michelin-starred Oak Room. Gugelmeier likes to cook the classics but is up for using international ingredients to “transform a dish into something new and adventurous.” At Gold Medal Plates he will serve a South American-themed plate in honour of the upcoming Rio Olympics.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of Canada, Matt McDonald did a stint cooking at a private members’ club in Florida, followed by several years working for Fairmont Hotels in Bermuda. Recently he accepted the position of Executive Chef at Bacalao Nouvelle Newfoundland Cuisine where he is receiving plaudits for his honest, yet elegant, dishes. He likes to allow ingredients to speak for themselves. “Don’t dress them up so much that you no longer know what you are eating,” he says. McDonald’s dish will focus on something “home grown.”
Jason Rice of Jack’s Restaurant is also an alumnus of the Culinary Institute of Canada. Since graduating in 2000 he has worked exclusively for Steele Hotels where through focus and determination he achieved the position of executive chef at the organization’s flagship hotel, The Capital. Rice is partial to fresh, local ingredients and enjoys working with game. This is evidenced by his Gold Medal Plates choice of elk tenderloin on seasoned crispy risotto with wild blueberry gastrique.
James Chatto contends that Gold Medal Plates (GMP) is “really the only national chefs competition that the public can experience. I love that our guests can taste each dish alongside the judges and I think the way it’s structured gives each chef great artistic freedom.”
I asked Chatto how the St. John’s competition compares with others across the country.
“The excitement of Newfoundland’s contemporary culinary scene is right on the surface at the St. John’s GMP. Every year I taste local things I’ve never tasted before — some traditional, some thoroughly modern — involving unique local ingredients. Culinary standards here are high; there’s also a measure of wit and Atlantic-Canadian creativity that sets this event apart.”
Gold Medal Plates St. John’s is a celebration of Canadian excellence in culinary, athletic and artistic endeavours. Many Canadian Olympic athletes will be in attendance because the event raises dollars for the Own the Podium Program of the Canadian Olympic Foundation. Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo and notable Canadian musical artists, including Colin Cripps, Anne Lindsay and Devin Cuddy, will perform at Gold Medal Plates St. John’s while judges deliberate and guests wait to learn who will be named Gold Medal Plates St. John’s Champion for 2015.
If you want to be among the thousands across Canada to experience Gold Medal Plates this year ,contact Mark McCarthy at (709) 579-4444 or via email: email@example.com
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. Contact him through his website, www.karlwells.com. Follow him on Twitter: @karl_wells