Best Chef, Best Wine Not the Only Winners #CCC2019
By Roslyne Buchanan
Faster than you can chow down an exquisite appetizer from a competing chef at the Canadian Culinary Championships (CCC), the 2019 competition in Kelowna is in the books.
Presented by Deloitte, Canada’s Great Kitchen Party is a #partywithpurpose to provide “young Canadians the opportunity to be extraordinary through sport, music and food”. Co-founders are Karen Blair, Stephen Leckie and Lisa Pasin. The CCC creators refreshed the format after a 12-year run that delivered over $15 million funding to Olympians and next generation athletes. Ingredients such as performances by Canada’s best musicians, athletes telling their stories, chefs competing regionally and signature trips to incredible destinations and a national finale for chefs, wineries and breweries remain. Organizers promise “more chef time, less speeches, more music, elite athletes from the world of amateur, para and pro-sport and a fantastic new show”.
Support continues for elite amateur athletes and expands to music and food initiatives focused on children and youth in the events’ local communities. To fulfill these ideals, Canada’s Great Kitchen Party works in collaboration with B2ten (sports), MusiCounts (music), and Community Food Centres Canada (food) and affiliate food organizations.
Kelowna has staged nine Canadian Culinary Championships. Such success depends on a large cast, none more hardworking and passionate than Executive Committee Chair Judy Burns. Influential wine industry icon Harry McWatters is Honourary Chair. The dedicated committee includes Chef Bernard Casavant, Daniel Bibby, Erika Olsen, James Addington, Jason Guyitt, Jonathan Rouse, Michael J Ballingall, Raj Diocee and Thom Killingsworth. Lifeblood are the volunteers who step up to the plate year after year, ticket taking, raffle sales, line hosting, plate running and more duties.
Sponsors are essential including Deloitte as national presenting partner; The Globe and Mail, Big White Ski Resort, San Felice Borgo, and Cacao Barry, national partners; ValleyFirst, gold partner; and Delta Hotels Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort, Okanagan College, Okanagan Chefs Association – Taste the Okanagan, Castanet, and EZ Rock 101.5 regional supporters.
Perhaps the greatest winners are students from the Okanagan College Culinary programs and junior chefs from the Okanagan Chefs Association who are mature enough to recognize the phenomenal opportunity presented to them. Here, there’s the chance to work alongside Canada’s most gifted chefs, gleaning from a wealth of kitchen know-how. Students and juniors dedicated enough can accelerate their careers and find themselves employed in award-winning kitchens.
Attendees win as they taste outstanding cuisine, wine, beer and other beverages. Lady luck may reward raffle ticket buyers and auction bidders. The trips and auction items assembled each year are fabulous.
Kelowna, too, is a winner as culinary enthusiasts from across Canada and beyond gaze upon the region. Onlookers learn about the community’s inspirational food and beverage scene – in town, at wineries and breweries, and on the ski slopes and golf courses.
2019 Culinary Medals
While all the chefs competing in the CCC already demonstrated extreme talent in regional competitions, it all comes down to this intense weekend and three challenges:
Mystery Wine Pairing – Chefs have to guess the grape varietal, decide what food will pair with that wine and with a maximum budget of $500, create appetizers for 500 attendees to judge.
Winner of the People’s Choice: Chef Takashi Ito of Victoria with seared pork belly, gnocchi, winter squash puree, black sesame tenkasu.The mystery wine revealed was Mission Hill 2016 Vista’s Edge Cabernet Franc.
Black Box Competition – Chefs are presented a black box of ingredients and are timed to prepare dishes for the judges. Chefs must spring to action after being held without outside communication in a guarded room. Perhaps the most stressful part is the random selection process in which they have no idea in which order they’ll be summoned.
Interesting twist this year as the black box was entirely plant-based marking the first time it was a vegetarian leaning. Ingredients all sourced from Canada included Kelowna Chestnuts, Quinces (@MikuniWild), Saffron (@TrueSaffron), Sweet Potatoes (@AgAssiniboine), Lion’s Mane Mushrooms (@grugerff), Buckwheat Groats (@HighwoodC) and Yoghurt (@ShepherdGourmet).
As chefs compete, ticket holders split time in demonstration kitchen seating, in the main hall where breakfast or brunch is provided by culinary students with Tea for a Cause and artisan coffee by Bean Scene. They can also browse an on-site Market of local artisan goods.
Grand Finale – Chefs present their winning dish with beverage pairing from their regional competition. Last year’s Gold Medalist Alex Chen of Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, Vancouver, presented his winning appetizer and pairing. Plus, Canadian rock band Chilliwack with Bill Henderson entertained.
Beverage sponsor, Okanagan Spirits served a cocktail choice of Gin with Elderberry Tonic or Rose Lemonade. Cannery Brewing of Penticton demonstrated the lengths sponsors go to satisfy when the delivery of its craft beer took a long route around a slide that blocked Highway 97.
Snatching Gold was Chef Yannick LaSalle of Les Fougères, Chelsea, Quebec, representing Ottawa-Gatineau. His grand finale dish was Fennel with sea buckthorn, Eastern Township duck magret Le Rougie and Quebec saffron, paired with 2016 Barrel Select VQA Chardonnay from Meldville Wines of Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario. Besides the honour, and thanks to Cacao Barry, he wins a trip to West Africa or South America to visit a chocolate plantation.
Silver went to Chef Christopher Hill of Taste Restaurant Group, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The 2017 Pinot Noir by Meyer Family Vineyards, Okanagan Falls, BC paired with his finale dish called After the Fire. It was Confit Duck Leg, Wild Boar Sausage, Aerated Foie Gras, Parsnip, Beetroot, Morel, Cabbage, Sour Cherry, Birch Syrup Salsify Bark, Juniper Jus, New Growth Flowers, Reindeer Moss and Smoke.
Chef Dave Bohati of Murrieta’s, Calgary, Alberta, captured the Bronze. His finale Smoked Brant Lake AB Wagyu Beef Cheeks, Kabocha Squash, Jerusalem Artichoke, Marrow and Saskatoon Berry paired with the 2016 Pinot Noir by Tantalus Winery, Kelowna.
National Culinary Advisor and Head Judge James Chatto reported the 11 regional champions were strong contenders and any one of them could’ve owned the podium. “Nobody raced ahead of the pack (as has happened in other years) and nobody stumbled badly. In terms of marks, all 11 chefs stayed in a tight pack and though the people at the front of the group changed with every phase of the competition, it was impossible to guess who would break the tape when all three contests were done. Chefs who excelled in the Mystery Wine Challenge did not do quite so well in the Black Box. Chef Takashi Ito (British Columbia), for example, won the Grand Finale by a large margin, but did not fare well in the Black Box. Chef Dave Bohati (Calgary) aced the Black Box while Chef Christopher Hill (Saskatoon) won the Mystery Wine Challenge.”
Judging team included Andrew Morrison as Judge Invigilator, Sid Cross (BC), Mary Bailey (Edmonton), John Gilchrist (Calgary), Noelle Chorney (Saskatchewan), Barbara O-Hara (Winnipeg), Sasha Chapman (Toronto), Gildas Meneu (Montreal), Anne DesBrisay (Ottawa/Gatineau), Emmanuel Charretier (New Brunswick/PEI), Ted Grant (Nova Scotia), Chef Perry Bentley (Kelowna), and Chef Roary MacPherson (Newfoundland).
National Wine Advisor David Lawrason explains Canadian wines that took Best of Show in respective cities as judged by panels of local sommeliers, retailers, and wine writers often including him compete at CCC to be named the Wine of Year.
Gold was awarded to Charles Baker Wines’ 2014 Picone Vineyard Riesling from Niagara Ontario’s Vinemount Ridge. Naramata Bench’s Lake Breeze Wines received Silver for 2017 Roussane. The 2017 Grenache, Stag’s Hollow Winery of Okanagan Falls was awarded Bronze.
Joining Lawrason in the selection process at CCC were judges Harry McWatters, Janet Dorozynski, Rhys Pender and Sid Cross.
That’s a Wrap for 2019
It’s impossible to name each winery, brewery and other beverage outlet or all of the culinary partners who provided tasty bites throughout the weekend. For further details, search #CCC2019 on Twitter and Instagram and visit http://greatkitchenparty.com/ca/media/latest-news/
Kelowna’s contract includes another year as host for CCC so if you missed the festivities this year, watch for the 2020 announcements.
Featured photo: At Grand Finale, competing chefs convene on stage to describe their appetizer and wine pairing and await the announcement of medals. By Roslyne Buchanan