by Lauren Mote
Last Wednesday night, some of British Columbia’s elite chefs, wineries, athletes, diners and industry professionals, gathered at the crowded Westin Bayshore Hotel in Coal Harbour for one of the most prestigious culinary competitions in Canada, The Gold Medal Plates.
It is a celebration of Canadian excellence in food, wine and athletic achievement, and since its debut in 2003, the Gold Medal Plates has helped raise funds for Canada’s high performance Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Thus far, the culmination of Gold Medal Plates participants and supporters over the past 5 years has raised close to $2 million dollars, and this year alone, over $700,000 has been contributed to Team Canada, and their endeavours at the upcoming Winter Games (Vancouver 2010) and Summer Games (London 2012).
The premise of the competition: each chef is given a station, and an Olympian assistant. Together, with their culinary brigade, each chef prepares a dish to wow the crowd and the judges. The conclusion? Gold, silver and bronze medals, paired with the ultimate bragging rights. Judges on hand to grade the dishes at the event included Sid and Joan Cross, both respected food and wine writers, Andrew Morrison of the West Ender newspaper, John Bishop of Bishop’s Restaurant, Chef Melissa Craig of Bearfoot Bistro and winner of the 2007 Gold Medal Plates National Culinary Competition, and Chef Pino Posteraro of Cioppino’s, winner of the 2007 Gold Medal Plates Vancouver competition.
Here are the winners from the BC Gold Medal Plates competition:
GOLD: Frank Pabst | Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar
^ Chef Frank Pabst of Blue Water Café in Yaletown, attracts guests with his interpretation of scallop and sea urchin mousse. The mousse itself is luxurious in texture, simply presented on a bed of leek and seaweed salad, with a cucumber vichyssoise. Chef Pabst paired his dish with Sumac Ridge Pinnacle Sparkling Wine. “… I thought using the sweetness of the scallop would compliment the flavour of the sea urchin in the mousse,” says Chef Pabst a few hours later on stage while delivering his gold medal speech. What was generally an acquired taste, the sea urchin gains some unfamiliar credit through Chef Pabst’s creation.
SILVER: Hidekazu Tojo | Tojo’s Restaurant
^Chef Hidekazu Tojo of Tojo’s Restaurant on West Broadway, takes the silver medal with his paper pouch of smoked sablefish, shelled mussel and lobster, served with a pickled vegetable salad. Chef Tojo paired his dish with 2007 Mission Hill Riesling.
BRONZE: Andrey Durbach | Parkside, Pied à Terre, La Buca
^ Chef Andrey Durbach of Parkside, Pied à Terre, La Buca, wins bronze with his game bird pot au feu, with wild mushrooms, a duck confit and chestnut farce, wrapped in cabbage, truffle boudin blanc, and a quail and pheasant torchon. This breathtaking soup was paired with Stag’s Hallow “Simply Noir”, a perfect blend of both Gamay and Pinot Noir grapes.
^ Chef Jeremy Bastien of Boneta Restaurant in Gastown creates a bison short rib tortellini, set on a beurre noisette. Chef Bastien was the only competitor to pair his dish with BC beer. He chose Red Devil, an aromatic and well balanced ale by the R&B Brewing Company.
^ Chef Ned Bell of the Cabana Grille in Kelowna wows his patrons with a hardy and satisfying autumn favourite: a palate cleanser of beef consummé, with anise and cinnamon, warms up the body, just as the pork tortière with caramelized apples, and prosciutto starts this “comfort food” trend that we will see at other stations throughout the evening. Chef Bell chose to showcase his flavours with an Apple Icewine from the Raven Ridge Winery.
^ On his home turf, Chef Kevin Doucette of the Westin Bayshore, looked quite comfortable while he explained his dish, where molecular gastronomy meets bright flavours – Salmon with cedar beads (made from concentrated cedar water and gelatin), miso sauce, a lime-basil “air”, mushroom jelly, and an effervescent avocado lime dust. Chef Doucette paired his dish with the NK’MIP Pinot Noir, a difficult pairing for such an intricate dish.
^ The next station should have belonged to Chef Jeff Van Geest of Aurora Bistro on Main St, but due to an undisclosed emergency, Chef Van Geest would miss the event. We wish him all the best.
^ From a distance, we see Chef JC Poirier of Chow Restaurant. His brigade, decked out in black t-shirts housing the line “oui chef” on the back, prepare a sweet onion soup, with housemade cotecchino sausage, soft boiled quail egg, gruyère cheese, reduced sherry vinegar and 5 spice, served with a wedge of gruyère grilled cheese on the side. Again we see the appearance of “comfort food”. Chef Poirier chose to pair his soup with 2005 Kettle Valley Adra Station Chardonnay.
^ The only competitor from Vancouver Island, Chef Edward Tuson of the Sooke Harbour House, located south-west of Victoria, created a gorgeous soup, another competition favourite. Chef Tuson used pine mushrooms for his broth, and topped it with a fat dollop of parsnip foam (blending whipping cream and parsnip) – it floated almost like a dumpling. To that, Chef Tuson added cured Berkshire pork (prosciutto-style) from his own herd of Island pigs; he finished the dish with a geoduck clam salad, and an onion oil. Chef Tuson paired his warm bowl with 2007 Peller Estates Pinot Gris.
^Chef Robert Belcham of Fuel Restaurant in Kitsilano, may have been one of the most exciting dishes. With Chef Belcham, one can always been prepared for juicy, succulent, high quality meats – and that’s what the masses received. A braised shin of beef, wrapped in beef tongue, served a top mashed potatoes. To finish the dish, a celeriac “coleslaw” set on a rye cracker. Chef Belcham paired his rich, comfy dish with 2004 Osoyoos LaRose “Le Grand Vin”, a merlot dominated bottle, with additions of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec and small amounts of petit verdot.
^ Chef Quang Dang of C Restaurant in False Creek, pays homage to the sunshine season, and local product, including a palate cleanser of rhubarb jelly, with citrus powder, followed by four components: a fresh chestnut soup, topped with a local quince foam; crispy Sloping Hills pork lardon with macerated grapes, and a grape reduction; seared pork belly, with peach pearls; and a smoked ham hoch terrine with local cherry preserves. Chef Dang paired his dish with the supple and buttery Poplar Grove Chardonnay.
^ Chef Koji Zenimaru of Kingyo Izakaya, in the city’s West End, arouses the eyes and taste-buds with this fresh compilation of flavours. A thin layer of daikon, covers the outer-edges of a tea light, illuminating the plate as we savour Chef Zenimaru’s seafood tartare, prepared with green tobiko, honey soy reduction, miso powder and lotus root chips. His dish was paired with unfiltered Granville Island Sake.
And finally, the awards ceremony. All the chefs anxiously await to hear the results in what looked to be a line up of crossed arms in white chef coats at the back of the room. As Chef Daniel Boulud took the mic, he announces the winners, and one by one the veteran chefs take their spots on the podium. As if it were the labour-of-love for these three chefs, their hard work pays off with each of them spending over 20 years in the industry. Congratulations once again to Chef Frank Pabst (Gold) Chef Hidekazu Tojo (Silver) and Chef Andrey Durbach (Bronze).
As the kitchen teams break down their stations, they all pause, as if to simultaneously “clink” their glassware on a job well done. We wish Chef Frank Pabst good luck as he continues on his quest for the National Culinary Championship, where he and his team will endure 2 days of events. First, Chef will participate in a Mystery Wine Pairing event, followed by a “Black Box” competition at the Banff Springs Hotel, in February 2009. Chef Pabst will be joined by 5 other Canadian winners, including Chef Patrick Lin of Senses Restaurant in Toronto, Chef Denise Cornellier of Denise Cornellier Traiteur in Montreal, Chef Charles Part of Restaurant Les Fougères in Ottawa, and the winners from Edmonton and Calgary (still waiting for competition results).
Photos and story by:
Lauren Mote | Urban Diner